Cannibals Of The Red Guard

The accounts were harrowing. Principals killed in schoolyards by students, then cooked and eaten. Government-run cafeterias displaying human bodies hanging from meat hooks and dishing them out to employees. Even serving suggestions on how to make a party of cooking up "counterrevolutionaries." Documents smuggled out of China last week described atrocities of the Cultural Revolution in grotesque detail. On his arrival at Kennedy airport, dissident writer Zheng Yi displayed photographs of the documents. "I have come to bear witness," he said. "The crimes committed by Mao Zedong and the Communist Party have never been exposed to the world nor to the Chinese people."

A former Red Guard, even Zheng himself didn't believe the stories he had heard about Guangxi, a remote province in southern China. But in 1986 he started examining government documents in local libraries and archives. For two years he compiled evidence of the mob violence and savagery, working under the constant fear that local officials might discover his search and destroy the incriminating documents. "The cannibalism in Guangxi province was endemic," he told reporters. The documents suggest that during the late 1960s more than a hundred people, possibly several hundred, were eaten. The cannibalism took place in public, forcing onlookers to prove their fidelity to the revolution by eating its enemies. Zheng found no evidence that the national party knew of the incidents, and Guangxi officials have refused to comment.

The story of Zheng's escape from China with the evidence was only slightly less extraordinary. Wanted by authorities since the Tiananmen crackdown for his role in the democracy movement, he went underground. For almost four years he moved from safe house to safe house, aided by an increasingly rebellious populace and loosening internal security. "Most of the people who helped me are ordinary citizens," he said. "Common people have the same feelings as revolutionaries, the only difference is they don't have an organization."

Zheng had planned to stay in China while his books about communism and the democracy movement were published abroad. But friends would not print the manuscripts they managed to smuggle out, for fear the government would step up its hunt for Zheng. To publish, he decided, he would have to leave. "Even if we are here, some of the things are quite unbelievable," he said. His quest now is to find a publisher ready to print them.