May 17, 2006

Protesters break silence on Cultural Revolution

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Dozens of Shanghai residents protested
on Wednesday over their forced relocation to a remote corner of
China in the 1960s, defying the official silence on the 40th
anniversary of the chaotic Cultural Revolution.

The 150 or so protesters, many carrying signs reading
"there's nothing wrong with petitioning," gathered outside the
Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, which includes a petitions
office where citizens can bring complaints to the government.

Most were sent to Xinjiang, China's most northwesterly
province, as part of a Maoist "learn from the masses" campaign
where they were forced into hard physical labor.

When able to return to Shanghai years or decades later,
they often found their old houses in new hands. And the
official silence over the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long
period of social upheaval, has left victims without

"They forced us to go there and now we want to be repaid
for what was taken from us," a middle-aged woman shouted
through the protective wall of police when approached by

"We had all lost so much by the time we returned."

A fleet of police cars and around 30 uniformed police
officers, as well as at least a handful of undercover officers,
gathered at the scene in the morning and remained there
throughout the day. But the protesters were allowed to stay.

Chaos reined during the Great Proletarian Cultural
Revolution when millions were killed or persecuted.

But the 40th anniversary of its start passed quietly across
China on Tuesday -- not for lack of interest or sentiment, but
because the ruling Communist party, obsessed with stability,
has issued a blanket ban on the subject.