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ICC Note: Chinese Catholics share how they endured persecution and torture during the time of Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Many were publicly shamed, imprisoned, or tortured. Critics find today’s intensified crackdown on Christianity in China by the government is similar to the period of Cultural Revolution.

08/06/2018 China (UCA News) – Thomas Zhang was born in Yaozhang village of Liquan county in Shaanxi province of central China in 1944. His family learned about Catholicism from his grandmother, while one of his maternal uncles was a priest.

In 1961, after graduating from junior high school, Zhang helped his family to farm and followed his uncle and other parish priests to preach around the area.

During the so-called Four Clean-ups Movement unleashed by Mao Zedong in 1963 to target people branded as reactionaries, Jingyang, Gaoling and Sanyuan counties of Shaanxi were the most affected as members of working groups set up by the Chinese Communist Party were stationed in each faithful’s house, living with them to brainwash them.

Zhang, 74, recalled: “At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, society was chaotic, unorganized and undisciplined. Many priests were imprisoned and my family was also affected.”

In 1966, when Zhang was 22, church members were forced to hand over their sacred icons and holy books. Red Guards (militant university or high school students) beat drums and shouted at the doors of the faithful, who were labeled monsters and demons.

Students in Xian city, the capital of Shaanxi, organized the national series, one of the social mobilization measures that Mao launched in the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), from the second half of 1966 to the beginning of 1967. Red Guards travelled around China to exchange propaganda.

These young people were aggressive to anyone who would not listen to Mao and would hang big cards on their chests labeling them as lackeys. Many people suffered this fate.

Zhang said many church members were also persecuted. One who was attacked by an animal could not receive medical treatment because he was a Catholic. He died of tetanus.

One day, a Red Guard came to his village and shouted: “Long live the Communist Party!” His uncle replied: “Long live the Lord! Long live Jesus Christ!”

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