Tempers ran short and pathos prevailed in tonight's nationally televised segment of Peking's long-running political show trial, in which Jiang Qing, the widow of Mao Tse-tung and a former movie actress, was accused of plotting to raid the homes of five artists she knew in the 1930s.
Huang Chen, the wife of a well-known Shanghai film director, glared icily at Jiang and alternately recited and screamed out her testimony.
"Ah, Huang Chen," Mao's wife suddenly interjected in the middle of Huang's incriminating testimony.
Cutting her short, Huang screamed: "I don't care to speak to you. You are Lan Ping! I know you very well. Do you know me?Well, you have no right to talk to me!"
Indignant, Jiang, whose movie name was Lan Ping, tried to engage in an exchange only to have a judge bark an order for her silence.
For Chinese viewers, it was the most dramatic view yet into the past personal lives of their once venerated former leaders at the trial of the so-called "Gang of Four." For outsiders, it was also a highly unusual display of Chinese emotions.
The court has charged Jiang with ransacking the artists' homes in the wee hours of a night in October 1966 during the Cultural Revolution. She was allegedly searching for old letters, photographs and notebooks that incriminated her past. Two of her victims later were persecuted to death and three were detained, prosecutors allege.
She also is accused of supervising the burning of materials obtained from her colleagues' homes. She has denied the charges several times.
It is believed that Jiang feared those materials would interfere with her struggle for power. When she met Mao in 1937, she tried to divest herself of all her past associations as an actress and gave up her name Lan Ping for Jiang Qing.
Choked with emotions, Huang Chen, a former actress from Shanghai like Jiang, told the court that her home was searched by 40 persons disguised as Red Guards and that her husband was taken into custody. He died in 1968.
"It was just because he knew what you were like in the 1930s that you broke up my family and persecuted comrade Gheng Junli to death!" Huang said to Jiang, apparently referring to her husband.
No details about Jiang's past came out in the coverage of the trial. She is reported to have had several love affairs before becoming Mao's fourth wife.
The court also accused Jiang Qing of ordering a raid on the home of Zhao Dan, a popular screen and stage actor in the 1930s who co-starred with Jiang in a production of "A Doll's HOUSE." Zhao Dan was placed in solitary confinement for 5 1/2 years, apparently out of personal resentment. i
Jiang was born in Ghuthenz, Shandong Province, in March 1914 as Li Jin. At the age of 15, she studied drama and music at the Experimental Arts Theater in the capital. It was then that she began her mediocre career as an actor.
Little is known about Jiang and her life in Shanghai. She has suggested herself that her past was full of political and theatrical intrigue. One of the charges against her is that she persecuted more than 2,000 artists and writers during the Cultural Revolution because many of them knew about her past as Lan Ping.
A parade of other witnesses also appeared to testify in what was the longest televised program yet of China's all-time hit political show trial.
Jiang Tengjiao and Wu Xian, both defendants in another trial, testified that they helped Jiang persecute artists and writers. Jiang Tengjiao admitted in court that he personally was responsible for carrying out the search of the artists' homes. Wu Xian said he was asked to hunt down a letter written by Jiang "which might be in the hands" of any of the actors.
This letter, observers say, was merely used as a pretext for ordering a search of one of the actor's home.
Another witness, Zhao Gensheng, a one-time clerical secretary, testified that he saw Jiang supervise the burning of the seized materials. He said that the seized materials were removed from a box and piece-by-piece burned in an oven while Jiang watched.
"From time to time she glanced at what was happening and within a short time they burned everything in the parcel," Zhao said.