Mao Tse-tung's former political secretary, Chen Boda, admitted yesterday at the "Gang of Four" trial that he authorized the public humiliation of top Chinese leaders during the Cultural Revolution, including current Communist Party Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping.

Millions watched televised extracts in which he admitted signing documents approving the persecution of a number of moderate communist leaders in the mid-1960s in his capacity as head of the so-called "Cultural Revolution Group" set up by Mao.

Chen, looking older than his 76 years, was virtually carried onto the witness stand by two secutiry officers and stammered as he answered questions in a frail voice.

Asked by one of the judges whether he had received a report recommending the public humiliation of then-president Liu Shaoqi, who later died in jail, and Liu's wife Wang Guangmei, he at first replied feebly: "I really don't remember."

When shown the document twice in court, however, he admitted that he had signed it and had added the names of Deng Xiaoping and of the late vice premier Tao Zhu and their wives to be "struggled against" at a mass meeting.

Once the fifth-ranking member in the Communist Party hierachy, Chen is being tried in the same special court tribunal as the so-called Gang of Four radical leaders, who were led by Mao's window, Jiang Qing.

He was purged 10 years ago for "ultraleftism" and was thought dead until he resurfaced for his trial for "counterrevolutionary crimes."