The trial of an 80-year-old man accused of murdering a doctor during the reviled Cultural Revolution era of China has sparked an online debate about re-examining years when hundreds of thousands of intellectuals were targeted, often with violence.
The suspect, identified as Qiu,
and his partners have been accused of strangling a doctor named, Hong, in 1967, one year into Mao Zedong's years of Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976.
The decade was initiated by Mao to overthrow the old order and introduce far-reaching changes in social order.
"The charges against Qiu were filed in the early 1980s but Qiu managed to flee while the other suspects were arrested and convicted," Jin Xiuzhe, a press officer from the court in China's Zhejiang province, told the state-run Global Times newspaper.
Qiu was finally arrested in July by local police in Ruian, a county-level city under the administration of Wenzhou, ending his 30 years as a fugitive.
If nothing, the case has divided opinion.
Some said Qiu should be tried according to law. Others were of the opinion that it was time the government re-visited the era when the youth were pushed by the government to take on anyone with a dissenting view of politics.
"It's not right to put the blame on individuals during a period when the legal system was almost nonexistent. Both the culprits and the victims were sacrificed by the political factions of that era," Wang Shun'an, director of the Institute of Criminology at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the newspaper.
"The most shocking thing about the Cultural Revolution was the assault on human dignity. Insults, abuse, maltreatment and homicide were common. The social order was in chaos," said a commentary published by China Youth Daily on Wednesday, which called for a re-examination of the Cultural Revolution.
"Forty years ago, my father witnessed five farmers being beaten to death. We still have lingering fears due to the killers' cruelty," Han Youyi, a noted lecturer on judicial matters, said on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog.