What do you see as the most significant features of the system of imprisonment and interrogation used by Chinese authorities against people like Ma Bo during the Cultural Revolution? That is, what methods were effective in making prisoners more compliant to the authorities?

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"The blood red sun was sinking beneath the horizon; the pure white snowscape was perfectly silent."

In Ma Bo's 1995 memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Blood Red Sunset, Bo describes life during this Orwellian period, where paranoia and fear reigned, which lasted from 1966 to Mao's death in 1976. Nearly every one was at risk and could be denounced, with little to no evidence, for being counter-revolutionary, reactionary, subversive, bourgeois, or other interchangeable terms. Bo finds himself denounced, arrested, and interrogated. He is treated brutally and unfairly. Initially, he's not even sure what the charges are, which makes for a truly Kafkaesque situation. Above all, the authorities want a confession and they continually berate and harass him for one. They are not interested in what he has to say, unless it has to do with his guilt. Even his words are subject to policing. He admits that he made mistakes and the officer immediately corrects him: "Bang! He pounded the table. 'Mistakes'? Try crimes!'" (109). At one point a whole array of crimes (rape, murder, arson) are laid before him in an attempt to get him to confess.

There is also terrible physical abuse. They hit him, he's chained in a cold cell where he can't go to the bathroom by himself, and he's poorly fed. The cumulative effect is to break him down and degrade him: a common tactic in totalitarian states. And it works. He said that "By now the mental strain was taking its toll" (111). He's convicted and sentenced to hard labor. For further reading on life in Red China, I'd suggest Wild Swans:Three Daughters of China.

*I'm using the Viking hardcover.

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