The show trial of China's fallen radicals ended today with Mao Tse-tung's widow shifting responsibility for the Cultural Revolution to her husband, openly asserting for the first time that he called all the shots during the disastrous decaade.
"I always acted in accordance with the instructions and decisions of the central committee headed by Chairman Mao Tse-tung," Jiang Qing said in a nationally televised segment of the trial broadcast tonight. "Arresting me and bringing me to trial is a defamation of [the late] chairman Mao Tse-tung.
Jiang Qing, who has been ejected from the courtroom in the past for her violent outbursts, had to be warned again today by the court to observe courtroom etiquette. In return, she defiantly called the judge a "revisionist" and giggled while he told her that her courtroom slanders and false accusations constituted a new crime that would be considered against her at her sentencing.
"Just ask the monkey king to give me more heads to be cut off," she yelled back, referring to the hero of a classical Chinese children's story who had the magical ability to create new monkeys with the wave of his wand.
By passing the blame to Mao, Jiang Qing has gone further even than China's new pragmatic leaders in implicating the "Great Helmsman" in the political witch hunts, violence and social chaos that almost plunged the nation into civil war during the decade from 1966 to 1976.
Prosecutors who have pinned full blame on Jiang Qing during the five-week trial quickly criticized her defense as a cover-up and urged judges to sentence her to death. The verdict, an all but foregone conclusion, is expected soon, with sentencing for Jiang Qing and her nine codefendants to come next month.
Although Mao inspired and led the Cultural Revolution, prosecutors have gingerly sidestepped his role, apparently following orders of China's top leaders, who are believed to fear a backlash from the millions of Chinese who still revere Mao and identify him with the Communist Party.
Officials have anticipated Jiang Qing's defense for weeks, limiting her repeated outbursts in a courtroom filled with specially selected observers and reportedly deleting unflattering references to Mao from nightly televised versions that are first screened by ruling Politburo members.
The fact that Jian Qing, who is charged with persecuting thousands of Chinese, was allowed publicly to link her actions to Mao indicates that current leaders have decided to ascribe at least limited blame to the late chairman for the huge costs of the Cultural Revolution.
How the party finally evaluates the Cultural Revolution and Mao's role in it is considered essential for deciding the future course of China. Diminishing Mao's status could presage purges of Maoists remaining in the party, including Mao's successor, Hua Guofeng.
Jiang Qing, who at 67 appears still to possess the personal strength and savvy she displayed as first lady of the Cultural Revolution, was well aware of the historical significance of her testimony and trial, calling the proceeding little more than a political vendetta.
"You want to vilify the millions upon millions of people who took part in the Cultural Revolution," she shouted at the long bench of judges. "You want to reverse verdicts [leftist gains] and make a restoration" of captalism.
In her own defense, Jiang emphasized her slavish devotion to Mao, saying, "I have never had my own line of action. During the [civil war with Nationalist Chinese], I was the only woman comrade to follow Mao."
In closing arguments, prosecutors tried to separate Jiang Qing from Mao, citing several cases where the late chairman expressed distrust for his wife, saying at one point that she "does not speak for me" and in another that "after I die, she will make trouble."
Listing a series of persecutions against high-ranking party officials that Jiang Qing was alleged to have directed, prosecutor Jiang Wen turned toward the defendant and asked, "Can it be true that chairman Mao asked you to do all this?"
"Jiang Qing had framed and persecuted too many people to enumerate," the prosecutor said. "She attempted to shift the blame to chairman Mao so as to deny her responsibility and escape due punishment by law. This would never work."
Jiang Qing, a onetime Shanghai film actress who married Mao in the 1930s, was arrested along with her Gang of Four radical associates in October 1976, a month after Mao died, and has remained imprisoned ever since. The four former members of the Politburo have stood trial with her.
In another courtroom, five former top military officers were tried on charges of plotting to assassinate Mao in 1971, a plan allegedly devised by defense minister Lin Biao, who reportedly died in a plane crash trying to flee the country after the attempt failed.
Under China's criminal code, the death sentence can be imposed on those convicted of counterrevolutionary crimes, including political persecutions, assassinations and uprisings. It is unclear, however, whether the judges will impose capital punishment on the wife of a revered historical figure.