In Custody along with American Peking Opera Actor Playing Female Roles (Part 2)

Chiang Ching-kuo and his father KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Ching-kuo and his father KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek

chiang Ching-kuo and his Russian wife who is also fond of Peking opera

chiang Ching-kuo and his Russian wife who is also a Peking opera fan

Walter Was Lucky in Not Having Been Persecuted by Red Guards
As he and I lived in the same lane and his house was only two houses further than mine, we walked home together at noon and in the evening and became friends.

I told him that he was very lucky that his Peking opera troupe dissolved. He was amazed to hear that and said, “Are you crazy? I am unemployed now!”

I said, “Yes, I know. But it is better than being denounced, imprisoned and beaten. You know that everywhere Peking opera actors, especially well-known ones, have been denounced, struggled at, detained and beaten by Red Guards. The Red Guards said that they were punished for having the stages dominated by reactionary plays about feudal emperors, kings, generals and prime ministers. You are lucky that they have not punished you because you had stopped giving performance since long ago when your troupe dissolved.”

“No,” he said, “I did not stop giving performance. I gave performance in private for rich people at their wedding and birthday parties. Otherwise, how can I earn a living. I cannot find another job. Even if I can, it would be a job of manual labor that I am not able to do. Now, I am really hard up as there are no rich people now. My interrogators told me to apply for poverty relief. The maximum amount of that is 10 yuan (US$4.40 according to the official rate at that time) a month per head. It is not enough for me to use as my pocket money.”

“You will get only 2 yuan less than other well-known Peking opera actors. Red guards have raided all their houses, taken away all valuables and left them in dire poverty. Their troupes now only pay them 12 yuan a month per head. Money-wise, they are not better off, you see.”

Walter’s Sister
I knew that he was financially desperate then. His sister’s former husband was in prison for a counterrevolutionary crime, leaving her, a housewife, and their five children not provided for. It was very difficult for his sister to find a job at that time because China’s economy was recovering from the economic depression called by the Party as the three years of natural disaster; therefore, without the husband’s salary, they were starving. She could apply for poverty relief, but usually the government would move them out of Shanghai to remote areas, then her children might lose the opportunity of good education and jobs in Shanghai. Her husband’s younger brother was then single and earning a salary a little less than 100 yuan. The brother was willing to use much of his salary to support his sister-in-law’s family, but 100 yuan was indeed not much. It was hard to maintain two separate families with such an income. He had better move into his sister-in-law’s home so as to greatly reduce their living expense. However, he might be in trouble if there was merely a rumor that he had an affair with his sister-in-law, a counterrevolutionary’s wife.

When the younger brother visited his elder brother in the prison, the two brothers discussed the matter and decided that the brother in prison should divorce his wife and then the younger brother should marry the elder brother’s wife. This was what I learnt from our maid before the Cultural Revolution. I do not know what actually happened between the two brothers. Our maid was of the opinion that it was a pity that when a man became a counterrevolutionary, he lost not only his freedom but also his wife and children. According to our maid, some of my neighbors thought that a man should not take advantage of his brother’s misfortune to rob his brother of his wife.

I knew Walter’s sister. She was indeed beautiful. The brother must be happy to have such a beautiful wife. However, at that time she had had already five children and could by no means be regarded as young. Moreover, 100 yuan a month was quite a high salary at that time. On average a university graduate earned only 58 yuan and the average young worker’s wage was about 40 yuan. With such a high salary, it is easy for the brother to find a young and pretty girl to marry. I believe that either the brother was really a good brother willing to sacrifice himself for his elder brother or he was deeply in love with his former sister-in-law. By the divorce and remarriage, Walter’s sister was no longer a counterrevolutionary’s wife and her children no longer a counterrevolutionary’s children. They, especially the children, would not be discriminated in their pursuit for higher education and good jobs. Except in 1961, in the period from 1958 to 1966, as a rule, counterrevolutionaries’ children were not admitted into any tertiary education institution. At that time I believed that should be the major purpose of the divorce and remarriage. However, though divorce and remarriage were lawful in China at that time, Walter’s sister was looked down upon by some of her neighbors because of the Chinese tradition against women’s remarriage.

Anyway, at that time Walter lived in his sister’s home where the eight people there had to live on a monthly income of about 100 yuan, 12 yuan per head. They were well below poverty line.

Chiang Ching-kuo’s Dinner
One day on our way home, Walter told me that he was in trouble. I asked him why. He said his interrogators told him that they knew that Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek’s son Chiang Ching-kuo (who was later Taiwan’s president) gave him a dinner and a Longines watch as a gift when he was giving performances in Nanjing before the communists came to power.

I told him he had nothing to worry about that. As a well-known actor playing female roles, he certainly would have some contacts with Kuomintang high officials. I asked whether there was anything political in his contacts with them. He said no. They gave him dinners after they saw his performances because they liked his performances. I said that if so, he had nothing to worry. However, as there were surely reports about his contacts with the officials in the newspapers then, he had better tell his interrogators all such contacts before they found such contacts themselves in old newspapers.


Superhero Is an Endangered Species

A Superhero Is Difficult To Identify

A superhero is a human being with super wisdom, courage, moral integrity and sense of responsibility and quite a few other heroic personalities difficult for common people to understand. His appearance is not different from other people. Perhaps, he has no charisma and is not handsome. He may even have quite ordinary looks not impressive at all.

If the species is not one of the human beings but animals such as pandas or elephants, people know it is an endangered species at first sight and will provide protection immediately. However, a human superhero shall first have super achievements before being recognized by others as a superhero.

In a world full of people who do not know the existence of or misunderstand superheroes, a superhero would rather use his wisdom in any other career than politics. With his super wisdom, he can easily make prominent achievements in business, science, technology, etc. and may become very rich or a Nobel Prize laureate, but he will not be regarded as a superhero if he is not engaged in politics.

However, if he had been engaged in politics and become a president at the time of Clinton and Bush administrations, he would have successfully captured Bin Laden and prevented 911 and the financial tsunami. However, he would not have been recognized as a superhero because the 911 and financial tsunami, if had been prevented by him, would not have occurred. People without a superhero’s vision would not have believed that 911 or the financial tsunami might really have occurred but had been prevented by him. Even if he had explained his achievements a thousand times, no one would have listened to him?

President Clinton realized the danger of terrorists but lacked the wisdom to find a way to eliminate them. President Bush and his high officials and advisers must have the best wisdom but they ignored the warning about terrorists’ attack from the officials in charge of national security. That precisely proved that it requires super vision to foresee the danger and super wisdom and courage to take action to remove the danger.

As an American president is not supposed to have such vision, wisdom and courage, the incompetent president unable to prevent 911 is not held responsible for the disaster. He was not impeached for his failure. Instead he was smoothly reelected so that no preemptive efforts had been made to prevent another more serious disaster, the financial tsunami.

You may think that what I am talking about is entirely based on imagination. How can there be such a superhero in real life!

Superheroes in Real Life

I know quite a few superheroes. Some of them have been praised but not so much as being regarded as superheroes, but quite a few of them have not been identified as superheroes.

First, former Taiwan President Chiang Ching-kuo, who gave up the most valuable asset of his Chiang Dynasty, the state ofTaiwanthat he inherited from his father, and returned it to Taiwan people. His peaceful transition of Taiwan from an autocracy into a democracy will be remembered as one of the greatest superheroic achievements in Chinese history.

As I long for such a peaceful democratic transition in Mainland China, I would like to regard him as the greatest superhero in human history.

There have certainly been quite a few other identified superheroes, such as American civil rights fighter Martin Luther King, Jr., former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, former South African President Nelson Mandela and Burmese democracy fighter Aung San Suu Kyi. Their achievements are recognized by most people in the world, but those who do not agree with me are welcome to provide their arguments.

A Superhero Not Recognized until His Downfall

Former Chinese Premier and Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang can be regarded as a superhero. He pioneered the liberalization of China’s agricultural sector and put an end to food shortage. Moreover, he had the vision that private economy will make China prosperous, and the creativeness to invent the concept of the primary stage of socialism to justify the pursuit of capitalism. In spite of conservatives’ fierce opposition, he had the wisdom and courage to carry on his capitalist reform and opening-up. China owes its three decades of economic success first to him and his concept, which continues to facilitate China’s reform and opening-up even now.

However, did people understand his super achievement before he was removed and put under house arrest for opposing Tiananmen Massacre?

No, at that time, people including the students taking part in the protests believed the rumor that Zhao’s sons were engaged in speculation of color TV sets and made a lot of money.

In a country with rampant corruption, an honest official, let alone a superhero, has inevitably lots of enemies as he has to fight against corrupt officials. Zhao had even more enemies as his reform and opening-up were fiercely opposed by countless conservatives including powerful elders, officials ranking high and low and rank and file Party members.

Before the Massacre, the conservatives had already successfully removed Zhao’s predecessor the great reformist Hu Yaobang and were making every effort to remove Zhao. Disseminating rumor is one of their common tricks. When Zhao had been put into house arrest, Li Peng, the notorious Tiananmen butcher who had been trying hard to find fault with Zhao, said that Zhao’s sons were found to be corrupt. He then carried out 3 years of meticulous investigation into Zhao and his family but was unable to find any irregularity.

A superhero has the lofty sense of responsibility for his people’s well being, but who understands him? Even now I am deeply moved by the memory of the scene on TV screen of Zhao’s personal appearance at Tiananmen Square to try to persuade the students to leave in order to prevent them from being killed. He knew well a massacre was coming, but could only hint but not directly reveal the secret. He spoke to the students with tears in his eyes but his advice was ignored.

If Zhao had not insisted on opposing the massacre but admitted that he was wrong, like Hu Yaobang, he might have remained a member of the CCP Politburo and would not have continued to be kept in house arrest, but he has no greed for power, and had the unprecedented courage to face persecution.

In CCP’s official history, Mao, the super tyrant, will be described as a great statesman who reunited China while his serious crimes will be omitted, covered up or slightly criticized. Tiananmen butchers will be described as the heroes without whom there will not be the prosperity in China years after the Massacre. The true superhero Zhao may be described as a leader disgraced for his opposition to the massacre.

When there is the danger of history being distorted, we who personally experienced what has happened have the duty to write the correct and true history. Otherwise, there may be a repetition of the disasters we have experienced.

As for superheroes, they are so precious a species that we need in preventing disasters and bringing prosperity. As true superheroes have no greed for power or wealth but only want to leave a good reputation in history, we shall praise them loudly and repeatedly to encourage potential superheroes to be engaged in politics. Otherwise this precious species may become extinct.