Chairman Mao’s conquest of China on 1 October 1949 marked the start of the China holocaust (I use a small “h” as I appreciate the uniqueness of “the” Holocaust of the Jews). Historian Antony Beevor estimates 70 million innocent men, women, and children died under Mao’s regime.

At the University of Auckland in July 1993, a handful of students and academics sat in the living room of a 19th-century merchant house listening to visiting Sinologist Professor Jonathan Spence explain why Chairman Mao was one of the 20th century’s “Great Leaders.”

This was too much to bear for my teacher, China holocaust survivor Professor Pang Binjun, a Christian who stood up and with considerable emotion countered, “What about the Cultural Revolution?”

“In provinces where few have been killed a large batch should be killed; the killings can absolutely not be allowed to stop too early,” Chairman Mao said back then, as quoted in Professor Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945–1957 (London: Bloomsbury, 2013, p. 88).

After the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of innocent students, distinguished translator Yang Xianyi (who had been scheduled to speak at my university) denounced the old guard of the Chinese Communist Party as being worse than the Japanese invaders, but said, “We won’t execute these fascists. We just want them to step down.”

As Professor Dikötter explains in The Tragedy of Liberation (p. 87),

“Like steel production or grain output, death came with a quota mandated from above. [General] Luo Ruiqing could not possibly oversee the arrest, trial and disposal of the many millions who became the targets of terror, so instead Mao handed down a killing quota as a rough guide for action. The norm, he felt, was one per thousand, a ratio he was willing to adjust to the particular circumstances of each region. His subordinates kept track of the local killing rates like bean counters, occasionally negotiating for a higher quota.”

“In the bloodshed that had followed liberation in 1949, executions had come in the hundreds of thousands. From October 1950 to October 1951, the regime eliminated somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people. Although the killing quota was fixed at one per thousand, in many parts of the south it was more than double that,” Dikötter added in his book The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976 (London: Bloomsbury, 2016, p. 240).

In just one incident,

“A night of butchery followed… Party activists joined the local militia in locking their victims into their homes or makeshift prisons. They were taken out one by one. Some were clubbed to death, others stabbed with chaff cutters or strangled with wire. Several were electrocuted. Children were hung by their feet and whipped. One eight-year-old girl and her grandmother were buried alive. More than 300 people were killed, including entire families and their children, as the killers wanted to make sure that there would be none left to take revenge years later.” (Dikötter, The Cultural Revolution, 78)

With Red China’s borders closed to the outside world, Mao could kill at will. Yet, China holocaust deniers attempt to impose an enforced euthanasia on the conscience of their subjects.

To provide a sense of justice to the millions of Mao’s innocent victims, October 1 should be recognised as China holocaust Remembrance Day.

Republished with permission from Bitter Winter.

Mark Tarrant

Mark Tarrant is a lawyer who represents Drew Pavlou, a student expelled from University of Queensland, in his lawsuit against the Chinese Consul-General in Brisbane.