I was struck today by John Garnaut’s profile of General Liu Yuan, embedded in an investigation into PLA corruption. What moved me and stopped me in my tracks, and made me come back here to write this, is the revelation that Liu Yuan is the “last surviving male descendant of Liu Shaoqi”. I know little of Liu Shaoqi. I know he fell with many others during the Cultural Revolution, but most of the details are unknown to me.
There is only this one photo that I saw, and never forgot. The look on this man’s face as the insanity around him boils over into violence stays with me forever:
And his wife, pilloried and imprisoned. Their one son, insane and dead. And now Liu Yuan, a general and according to Garnaut’s piece, a very powerful and righteous one at that. Last night at 2am I wrote about Bo Xilai and his grab for the throne. We’ve heard about what he did with his father – denouncing him publicly during those bloody red years. I remember first hearing about that and I imagined myself in that scene from Farewell my Concubine, when they’re all forced to kneel and denounce each other.
Could I have resisted? Would I have had the courage to say,
My father is a lion and you are all dogs.
I imagine it, but I can’t smell the sweat and the fear and the grit and the fire. I can’t hear the screeches, I don’t really know how furious or helpless or utterly alone they might have felt, these young kids, as the crowds crowed at them to turn their backs on the man who was there, since birth, their symbol of strength and wisdom and love for years …
We can’t imagine what made Bo Xilai denounce his father and have the inner will to carry on living. We can’t really know what kept Liu Yuan from drifting away into depression and death like his brother.
But if I had the chance, I would tell Bo Gua Gua – even if I don’t like the person he is portrayed to be – I would tell him to say
Fuck all of you, my dad is the Greatest.