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Liu Shaoqi, Birthdays, and Cruel Irony

It’s one of those wacky days in Chinese history.

Xinhua reports:

“Chinese officials led by President Hu Jintao on Tuesday marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of Liu Shaoqi, late President and Communist leader who was prosecuted and died during the Cultural Revolution.”

First of all, if they were celebrating his birthday, Hu and the boys were a little early: Most sources say Liu was actually born on November 24, 1898.

I also suspect that Xinhua meant “persecuted” because there really wasn’t much of a trial. Liu was arrested in 1968 following his fall from grace during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution.  The former head of state was left to linger in prison for two years as a ‘living target’ for propaganda campaigns and political speeches before finally succumbing to illness, neglect, and mistreatment on–and I don’t know how you like your irony served, I like mine on toast–November 12, 1969. 

Yep, the CCP chose to honor the birthday of a man they purged and tortured on the anniversary of the day he finally succumbed to his imprisonment.*  

In case anyone is keeping score, November 12 is actually the birthday of a well-known Chinese leader: Dr. Sun Yat-sen was born this day in 1866. 

*I’m holding out hope that the choice of date was somebody’s idea to cryptically honor the man’s sacrifice and persecution without having to come out and say “Yeah, we were the ones who killed him.” 

3 Comments on Liu Shaoqi, Birthdays, and Cruel Irony

  1. Great spot.

    Perhaps we should forgive Xinhua for this oversight. After all, life and death are easily confused.

    Then again, the CCP don’t make mistakes and, as the report tells us, Hu Jintao was leading the charge of remembrance. Perhaps the guy really does have a sense of humour.

  2. I’m not sure we can really look at the CCP as a single, unchanging organism, particularly when it comes to the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.

    The current ruling party of China may have the same name as the ruling party at the time of the Cultural Rev., but they are strikingly different animals.

    Still… funny that they should mix up the dates and celebrate his deathday.

    Why no celebration of Sun Zhongshan? Man’s got too many roads and squares already?

  3. Ryan,

    I agree on principle. Parties change. Let’s keep in mind the US Republican Party constant blather about being the “party of Lincoln.”

    I will say this about the CCP: while the party may have changed in many ways, they have been slow to acknowledge the party’s complicity in the atrocities of the past. Generally these are blamed on ‘factions’ or ‘elements’ or ‘30% of Mao’ or whatever, but not the Party itself. I think this makes a difference and leaves the institution open to these sort of criticisms and (admittedly) cheap shots.

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