The Killing Field
The following is the translation of an excerpt from the book A Narrow Escape from Death: My Journey as a 'Rightist' by Dai Huang. For background on this banned book, see Anti-Rightist campaign: China's censored history leaks around the Internet (in spite of Sohu) (Rebecca MacKinnon, RConversation, March 24, 2007). The original Chinese text from which the translation was rendered is here.
The first production brigade was located about 5 or 6 miles southeast of Yifen Farm. There were many small rice paddies scattered in low water-logged land seven or eight miles to the south of the production brigade location . At this time of year, the water already had a thin layer of ice on the surface. Our job was to collect the clumps of rice plants from the water-logged rice fields and bring them to the roadside so that the harvesting machines can extract the rice later.
This meant that the commute every day from the farm to the water-logged rice paddies was more than 30 miles of walking. From the water-logged fields, we had to carry the wet rice plants on our backs to the road. I do not know how much distance we spent on doing that part.
At this time, Luo Xiangcheng ("Xiao Luo") in our team, was in the final stages of the "three stages of bloating." His long, thin face had obviously turned from yellowish to grayish, and he had difficulty walking. Someone went over the heads of team leader Cheng Guilin and deputy team leader Wang Keze to present his at-risk status to the Yifen Farm leader and doctor. So the doctor gave him leave for a few days, which the leader also approved, so that he can take a rest.
But on the next day, the team director Cheng Guilin decided on his own that Xiao Luo had to go to work because "there are many things to do and we don't have enough people. You have to go."
So Xiao Luo had no choice but to go.
At the time, the snow was falling down hard. Xiao Luo put on a light-green raincoat over his worn-out black sheepskin coat, a grass rope around his waist, a ratty blanket around his neck, a pair of torn black plastic shoes with many red plastic mending patches and a walking in hand to join the back of the procession. He moved slowly and fell behind quickly behind to become a small black dot that was barely moving. Soon, even the small black dot became invisible.
As soon as we entered the water-logged rice paddies, we began to work. The wind was howling and the snow was coming down hard. We were cold and hungry, but we still had to put in an effort. Everybody wanted to carry our his quota of rice from the field so that in order to go "home" earlier.
At just past 2pm in the afternoon, most of the people in the team had completed their designated assignments of the day and they were ready to return. But the Yifen leaders did not anticipate that we would finish so quickly, and they sent someone over to deliver lunch. The pitiful Xiao Luo arrived almost at the same time as the horse carriage that brought lunch and he took out the smoke-blackened lunch box attached to the grass rope around his waist to get his food.
"How fucking dare you eat? Go, go, go. There is no food here for you!" Cheng Guilin was in a rage and he started to curse.
"Could you take ... pity ... take pity on me ... I'm a person ... a person almost ... almost ... almost ready to die ..." Xiao Luo said as his voice quivered. "It is so cold ... and there is such a heavy ... heavy snow ... please ... give me a bit ... perhaps ... perhaps I can make it back ..."
Cheng Guilin stretched his rat-face and revealed his row of big yellow teeth to yell: "How fucking dare you eat? You did not fucking work in the field. You scram back to work and then you can eat!!"
"...." Holding his empty lunchbox, Xiao Luo stared fixedly at the vicious face of Cheng Guilin and could not say anything.
Those who got their food started to walk home while they ate. The horse carriage that brought the food also left. I was the only one left, and I did not get any food. I was still carrying the rice plants again and again, because I had not completed my assignment. Xiao Luo was crying as he came down into the water-logged field to look for me in his broken plastic shoes, and he complained to me about the viciousness and maltreatment from Cheng Guilin. He said that deputy team leader Wang Keze wanted me to accompany Xiao Luo back.
When I heard the crying complaint from Xiao Luo, I was filled with anger and hatred.
Xiao Luo had been friendly with me. But after multiple threats from Liu En and Cheng Guilin, he revealed some of the private conversations between us. For example, when it came to "surpassing England in three years," "surpassing the United States in five years," "the Great Leap Forward" and the "establishment of the People's Commune and the Communist common dining hall," I said that this was because Chairman Mao ignored the objective conditions and wanted to be the first to realize Communism and thereby become the leader of international Communism, etc. He told them all that. Another time, on the way to a work site, he fell down a hole that was taller than a man and he could not get out. I turned around and pulled him, while emitting at the same time. When they forced him to "expose" that "I was trying to capitalize on a false friendship," Xiao Luo actually said that this was an attempt to befriend him and he said that I was particularly good at using little moves and simple expressions to convey deep political meanings to others in difficult situations. He said that the fact that I pulled him out while sighing at the same time is an attempt to show him that, under these circumstances, if we did not care about each other, who else would care whether we live or die?
All these miscellaneous items were recorded into Liu En's thick "Book of Life and Death." These are the things that Xiao Luo wrought against me. But at this particular moment, I looked at this face with a dazed look and a bloated yellowish-grayish hue, I felt that I would do anything I could to help him, even at the cost of my own life.
By this time, the winds and snow were getting harder. Visibility was lost beyond one hundred paces. I finished carrying the amount of wet rice plants as required by assignment and I went up to the pile of beans near which the lunch-delivery horse carriage had stopped. I found a piece of frozen cloth underneath which were two small corn buns and one piece of tulip. I knew that this was the lunch that was left for me. So I immediately gave half of my lunch to Xiao Luo.
After eating the buns, I continued to bring Xiao Luo "home". When he could not move, I propped him up. When he could not move his feet, I carried him on my back. After a few dozen steps, I was getting cold sweat and my legs were trembling. Xiao Luo was muttering on my back:
"Lao ... Lai Dao, you ... you ... are not going to make it either. You should leave ... leave me here ... you ... you ... you should hurry back ..."
I ignored what he said and I used all my strength to move forward. After a few steps, I stumbled and fell forward. The immobile Xiao Luo was piled on top of me. I could not move. So I lied on the snow and breathed heavily. After a while, I felt that I had gotten some strength back. So I rolled Xiao Luo slowly off my back and I got up.
I looked at Xiao Luo. His eyes were closed. The areas around his eyes and his lips were becoming blackened! I knew that this was a very bad sign. I thought about the death of Zhao Qi and the many deaths in Xiaoyun Mountain. But I did not have the strength to carry him, so I stuffed him into a pile of beans. I covered him with the plants and I took out the rag bag that I used to fend off the cold on me to cover his legs. Then I used all my strength to run towards the First Production Brigade five or six miles away.
I was panting heavily when I entered the village for the First Brigade and I went to the brigade office. I wanted to get a horse carriage from them. The brigade leader and administrators refused to budge. I got very excited and I accused them of depraved indifference towards a dying person. They remained motionless. I used their telephone to ask the party secretary at Yifen Farm for help, and I also reported to the construction team office. The construction team office promised to send a horse carriage immediately. I wrote a note to "borrow" two lunches from the First Brigade and then I ran back immediately ...
As I got near the pile of beans, I saw two persons hauling Xiao Luo towards me, one person on each side. Those two had been assigned to the First Production Brigade as soon as they arrived at Yifen Farm and, on their way back from gathering rice plants at another water-logged area, they found Xiao Luo.
At this time, Xiao Luo was totally unconscious. His eyes were closed tight. His legs, including his feet, were just being dragged along the road. The only sign that he was even alive was that his lips were still trembling slightly. I went near him and then I heard that he was calling to me:
"Lao ... Lao Dai ... you ... you are ... where are you ... Lao ... Lao ... Dai ... you ... you are ..."
Then his speech slurred. I took one of the corn buns "borrowed" from the First Brigade and put it in his mouth. He had no idea how to eat anymore. I broke the bun into small pieces and stuffed them lightly into his mouth. He chewed a couple of times, but he could not swallow anymore. When Cheng Guilin arrived with the horse carriage, he was more dead than alive!
We got back to the medical clinic at Yifen Farm and emergency aid was rendered. Xiao Luo regained some awareness. His eyes opened like small cracks. He saw me and he murmured to thank me. He said that he had been cowardly: "Not ... not ... not firm" and he did me wrong. I said:
"Forget about the past. The important thing now is to get better and recover your health."
He nodded his head and he requested me to accompany him at the medical clinic. Team leader Cheng Guilin was standing on the side and he did not exercise his power at the moment because he agreed. But as soon as he turned around, he decided to appoint his trusted aide Wang Keze (that would be the "something element" from the 81 Film Studio who kicked the anti-Japanese-war veteran Chen Guohua a couple times for falling down due to lack of body strength while doing road repair work at Yunshan) to "look after" Xiao Luo.
Two days later, our team was assigned to the Second Production Brigade seven or eight miles east of Yifen Farm. The cadres for this production brigade appeared to be better at carrying out the policies of the party. When they learned that Xiao Luo was getting better, they sent a horse carriage to pick him up. But when the horse carriage arrived at the farm's medical clink, Xiao Luo had taken a turn for the worse. His original "sign of apparent recovery" was just the final flicker of the oil lamp. On the third day, he left this world, leaving behind a widowed mother who was still thinking about him from Beijing.
So in the almost three years of exile in Beidahuang, this was how I personally witnessed a lively young man being tortured and mistreated by those inhumane leaders and their lackeys until he died. How can this be about "transforming oneself totally," "reforming one's thoughts" and "changing one's positions"? He was purely the victim of the reckless action and abuse of authority by certain people in pursuit of empty goals!
It seemed that until the authority of these people dry up, our lives will have dried up like those of Xiao Luo, Zhao Qi, and the dead people at Xiaoyun Mountain. Many people can see that nobody can possibly be "reformed" in his extremely chaotic, dark and cruel circle. In the end, the good people can only be "reformed" to death, the bad people become even worse and those in the middle are taught to become bad!
This made me think about what the comrade-victim who talked to me about the deaths at Xiaoyun Mountain had said:
"This situation will be changed sooner or later, no matter what the method!"