China opens up sensitive political history on prime time TV

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2014 20:57 IST

A television serial showing the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s controversial “Cultural Revolution” decade considered a sensitive period in the Communist country’s political history is creating waves in China.

The new series, which took five years to make, focuses on China’s late leader Deng Xiaoping and the period between 1976 and 1984 – years that saw the end the of Cultural Revolution, the purge of the “Gang of Four” including Mao’s wife and the first phase of the country’s economic reforms and opening up.

State media has hailed the television serial as a mark of China reducing taboos about sensitive issues. But the reports – and the serial – also made a point to avoid any negative remarks about Mao and instead talked about the purge and the subsequent trial of the infamous four that included his wife, Jiang Qing.

“Viewers of the series were caught by surprise after a portrayal of Hua Guofeng appeared on the show. Hua took power following Mao Zedong's death in 1976 and is known for announcing the downfall of the "Gang of Four," including Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, in the same year,” official news agency Xinhua said in a report.

Quoting the actor playing Hua’s character, it said that Hua is shown delivering a theatrical late night announcement hours after their capture.

“Today, on behalf of the fundamental interests and wishes of the Party, the army and the people of our country, we carried on chairman Mao's unfinished work to bring an end to the Gang of Four who have now been arrested and are under examination,” Hua's character announces on the show.

The announcement is preceded by a dramatic incident: a military truck pulls up to the west gate of Zhongnanhai, China's most prominent government headquarters in heart of Beijing, carrying troops from unit 8341 under secret orders to capture the "Gang of Four" during a heavy rainstorm.

The trial of Mao’s wife and the three others is said to be the most famous one in China’s history. It brought an end to Mao’s era and gradually ushered in Deng’s time, who was known as the “Paramount Leader”.

The events depicted could be assumed to be true as the series was made under instruction of the literature research office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and the Party committee of Sichuan Province, where Deng was born.

The 48-episode drama began airing on Friday at 9pm – now showing every day the same time – on China’s national broadcaster, CCTV, part of Deng’s 110 birth anniversary which falls on August 22.

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