Book review: Recalling the frenzied, violent hysteria of China’s Cultural Revolution

Journalist Tania Branigan conducted a series of interviews with perpetrators and surviving victims of the bloody 20th century revolution for her book Red Memory while her principal focus is how that violent chapter shapes modern China

Chinese red guards during the Cultural Revolution in China in which two million people were killed. Picture: Getty

Bian Zhongyun was the vice-principal of a girls’ school in Beijing. On August 5, 1966, the 50-year-old’s students put shackles on her. They dragged her on to a stage and made her kneel. They then began kicking, punching and beating her with a rifle.

When Bian collapsed, the pupils hauled her up by her hair and started again. The next day, a student leader announced her death on a loudspeaker: “She died. It is over.”