Jin Yong: A pioneer in the study of the Cultural Revolution

December 23, 2016 10:10
Ming Pao Daily founder Louis Cha Leung-yung is best known for his martial arts fictions but he is also a pioneer in the study of the Cultural Revolution. Photo: www.cuhk.edu.hk

This year is the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution and the mainstream print media in Hong Kong such as the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Apple Daily and Ming Pao Daily have all run special reports on the subject. I-Cable News also ran a comprehensive report.

The anniversary has drawn attention from the western media, including the New York Times, Voice of America and the BBC, all of which have run documentaries on the topic.

In contrast, the mainstream media in the mainland and Taiwan have largely avoided it.

Hong Kong has been an international hub for the study of the Cultural Revolution. Over the years, Ming Pao has served as an important platform for academics and journalists to publish their studies in this field.

Among them is the founder of the Ming Pao Daily and Ming Pao Monthly, Louis Cha Leung-yung (查良鏞), better known by his pen name Jin Yong (金庸).

Cha, a highly respected novelist famous for his martial arts fictions, is widely considered as a pioneer in the study of the Cultural Revolution. He started writing highly polemical articles criticizing Mao Zedong, the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s.

The reason I hold Cha in high regard is that I admire him for being a profound academic with great social conscience and also for being probably the most vocal critic of the scourge of the Cultural Revolution at a time when speaking one's mind on this sensitive subject could mean death.

So how did Cha earn his name as a pioneer in studying and criticizing the Cultural Revolution?

First of all, Cha has been denouncing the Cultural Revolution in Ming Pao editorials since the late 1960s, a rare and courageous act which made him a target for pro-Maoist fanatics and rioters.

Secondly, as founder of Ming Pao Daily, he designated his paper as a mass platform for academics and journalists to publish their reports, analyses and commentaries on the Cultural Revolution, offering the people of Hong Kong and Chinese around the world a rare glimpse into what was really happening in the mainland during the tumult when the entire country was under a news blackout.

Thirdly, under the name of Ming Pao Monthly, which was also founded by Cha, he published a series of books that offered in-depth analyses of the Cultural Revolution.

In the meantime, he collaborated with prominent academics and historians such as Qian Mu and Yu Yingshi in the 1960s and 1970s to raise public awareness about the atrocities committed by the Red Guards and the importance of upholding traditional intellectual values.

Strongly criticizing the Cultural Revolution and reminding people of its horrors were not just Cha's political stance but indeed his calling.

His unwavering devotion to standing up against ultra-left dictatorships and defending traditional Chinese values and virtues suggested that he was not only concerned about his own well-being at a time of great social unrest but also the injustices of society and the suffering of the common people.

Under Cha, Ming Pao Daily during the 1960s and 1970s lived up to its name as the only media platform in Hong Kong which was completely free from self-censorship, and which was not afraid to tell the truth even though it might upset Beijing.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 22

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist