A teenage girl denounces her parents (1968)


Fan Cao was a teenager during the Cultural Revolution who later, as a high school student, denounced her parents. In her 2005 memoir Under the Red Sun, she describes her experiences:


“I was a 7th grader when the Great Cultural Revolution broke out. Growing up in the ‘New China’ we were fed with revolutionary ideas bathed in the red sunlight of Mao. We worshiped Mao the same way pious Christians worship their God, and we were completely devoted to him. I myself really believed that we were working for a paradise on earth and we were going to save the entire world. How glorious it was to have the great destiny of liberating all humanity! In fact, we did not even understand what revolution was and how other people in the world really lived…

I was not allowed to join the Red Guards, simply because my grandparents were rich before the communists took away their land, and my parents were considered intellectuals, which automatically made them anti-revolutionists, regardless of the fact that they had been following Mao’s idealism since their early adulthood.

As members of the university faculty, my parents were obviously in trouble. I of course was guilty by association. Only a 13 year old girl, I became a target of the revolution. After that, I lost all my friends and lived in perpetual fear for several years.

Despite this unbearable life, I did not dare challenge my belief in the revolution. Instead, I wondered if it might be my parents who had done something wrong. I wrote a dazibao denouncing them to show my loyalty to Mao. My naivety deeply wounded the feelings between my parents and me. As I grew up, I slowly learned the truth behind the so-called ‘revolution’. I also realised that my family and I were relatively lucky compared with hundreds and thousands of innocent people who died in the endless political movements.

I am very remorseful, and I still feel shaken as I think back on what happened during the Cultural Revolution.”