Friday, January 19, 2007

Who Killed Revolution Heroine Liu Hulan?

A statue of Liu Hulan

A university professor’s unconventional explanation of a young revolution heroine’s death caused a lot of controversy in China’s public discourse this week, which has gone beyond just the debate over historical facts and become a clash of ideology, between alleged iconoclast of a classic communism paradigm and the defenders.

The heorine under debate is Liu Hulan, a 15-year-old girl killed by the Kuomintang army during China’s civil war in 1947, for refusing to identify communist party members in her village. She herself was a communist party follower at that time. Since the establishment of People’s Republic of China, Liu Hulan has been a revolutionary icon in China’s official teaching, especially as a paradigm of bravery and selfless devotion for young people.

Her story is a must-read in elementary school textbooks, according to which she was beheaded by Kuomintang soldiers. But in a blog post, Zhou Yijun, also known as A Yi, a famous TV host and professor at Peking University, claimed that Liu Hulan was beheaded by her fellow villagers.

“Liu Hulan was not beheaded by National Revolution Army [Kuomintang army]. In stead, they [Kuomintang soldiers] hit several villagers with gunstock and forced them to behead Liu Hulan. Terrified and trembling, the villagers beheaded the little girl growing up under their own watch,” A Yi wrote in the blog post. He also revealed that some of these villagers later lost their minds, and some were punished after the People’s Republic was established, but “the truth” was completely excluded in the government’s propaganda of Liu Hulan.

A Yi wrote the post on Jan.12, the 60th anniversary of Liu Hulan’s death, talking about a TV show he once hosted. In making the program, which reviewed historical events, the crew went to Liu Hulan’s hometown, interviewed a few old villagers and got the story very different from what people were taught. The piece was not aired.

Three days after it was posted, the article received more attention as well as criticisms after Xinmin Evening News, based in Shanghai, reported it.

Li Yang, an commentator writing for Huayue Forum website, called A Yi’s article the “counterattack of China’s revolution.”

He said A Yi and a group of scholars at Peking University are trying to completely deny China’s revolution, and “systematically and completely deny everything of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Why would they do that? “Very simple,” Li Yang writes. “Denying the past is denying the present, and therefore denying the legitimacy of the ruing communist party, which inherited the heritage of the past.” Eventually, according to Li Yang, they would like to drive the party out of office and push forward multi-party politics.

The party’s propaganda organ won’t keep silence, either. On Friday, the People’s Liberation Army Daily published an article denouncing A Yi’s story as “simply a farce of distorting truth and overturning classics.” The paper sent a correspondent to investigate A Yi’s program’s investigation, who found that the crew did not really talk with the only two living witnesses of Liu Hulan’s execution. The correspondent, however, did talk with the two witnesses who said Liu Hulan was killed by Kuomintang soldiers.

A Yi’s blog article received more than 200,000 hits, but online comments about it are almost unanimously unfavorable. People are not happy to see the glory image of the heroine be doubted or tainted. A few voices supported the professor, like the one criticizing the PLA Daily’s articles as suppressing different voices over historic events.

The controversial article has been removed from A Yi’s blog, but is still accessible on other sites that copied and pasted it.

----by Josie Liu

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