Communist leader Xi Jinping invoked memories of the “Gang of Four” at an official Chinese New Year’s eve event, when he honored the wife of Mao Zedong’s short-lived successor with a handshake and bow. Commentators are speculating on the meaning of what was undoubtedly a carefully orchestrated act.
With over 2,000 senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials gathered for a Chinese New Year’s celebration at the Great Hall of the People on Feb. 8, Xi extended a high-profile greeting to Ms. Han Zhijun, the elderly wife of late Chinese leader Hua Guofeng.
Hua succeeded Mao in October 1976. He played a major role in ending the Cultural Revolution, and helped begin what has been called the “reform era.” He was also a key figure in arresting the “Gang of Four,” a group of Party officials, including Mao’s last wife Jiang Qing, who controlled the CCP’s power organs during the latter part of the Cultural Revolution. The four were tried for treason, labeled a major counter-revolutionary force, and blamed for deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
On Feb. 10, Chinese New Year’s day, Yanhuang Chunqiu, a liberal political journal, carried a lengthy article on Hua Guofeng, including how he orchestrated the arrest of the “Gang of Four” after Mao’s death.
Many observers have identified a new “Gang of Four”: ousted princeling Bo Xilai, former Party leader Jiang Zemin, ex-Politburo member Zeng Qinghong, and Zhou Yongkang, former security chief.
Cleaning Out the Faction
Sun Wenguang, a former Professor of Shandong University, told the Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio Network: “There are now struggles going on inside the CCP, such as the arrest of Bo Xilai. Can this sort of thing be extended to others? Can it bring about similar effects as the arrest of the ‘Gang of Four’ did in the past? There are still some higher ups in the CCP who adhere to the conservative ways. Bringing out Hua Guofeng is a reflection of such changes. So I think it could have very symbolic significance.”
Hua Po, a mainland political analyst, says a massive cleansing within the Party is inevitable.
Hua Po told SOH: “Xi looks very composed right now. I think this is the calm before the storm. Within the CCP, the corrupted elements are in fact a vested interest group; they’re the biggest enemy on the path to reform. They are mainly from Jiang Zemin’s faction. But there are great difficulties associated with such a Party cleansing before the storm, so Xi is sitting tight and is trying to first win the majority public opinion—so he shakes hands with Han. First is to win the leftists and some moderates, second is to make friends with many others in preparation for the massive cleansing.”
Epoch Times commentator Zhou Xiaohui interprets the event as an attempt by Xi to win over Party moderates and combat conservative forces. He also predicts that the Party is likely to start cleaning out the remnants of the Jiang faction.
“Hua Guofeng and his family have been made invisible by the CCP in the last few decades. Why are they now suddenly going public?” Zhou commented. “Obviously, Xi’s high-profile meeting with Hua Guofeng’s wife and the article about Hua in Yanhuang Chunqiu are intentional. Han’s appearance is pointing to Hua Guofeng, and his past arrest of the ‘Gang of Four,’” he said.
Zhou added that after Xi came to power last November, he started a series of actions to undermine the strength of Jiang’s faction, such as weakening the power of the security apparatus, releasing many petitioners from detention, arresting Zhou Yongkang’s subordinates, and suddenly announcing the termination of the forced labor system. Also, petitioners and lawyers who have reported on Zhou Yongkang using their real names have not experienced any retaliation from authorities.
Zhou Xiaohui said that the top level of the CCP has already determined how to deal with the new “Gang of Four.” However, it remains unclear whether Xi will address their core crimes: the persecution of Falun Gong and the mass killing of Falun Gong for their organs.
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