Beijing Formally Charges Writer Who Published Memoirs of Victims of Mao Era

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HONG KONG — The police in Beijing have formally charged an 81-year-old writer, Tie Liu, for privately publishing the testimony of aged or dead victims of Mao Zedong’s wrath and for writing scathing essays about Mao and present-day Communist Party leaders, Mr. Tie’s wife and his lawyer said on Thursday.

Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has pursued an intense campaign against political dissent, which has led to the imprisonment of dozens of activists. But Huang Zerong, known among friends and family by his pen name, Tie Liu, appears to be the oldest activist to be charged in Mr. Xi’s campaign. He has been held in a detention center since last month, and the formal charges will allow the police to hold him longer while they build a case.

“I had expected bad news,” Mr. Tie’s wife, Ren Hengfang, said in a telephone interview from Beijing. “But this still seems a bit abnormal.”

Ms. Ren said the police visited her on Thursday to tell her that Mr. Tie had been formally arrested on two crimes: illegal business activities and “creating a disturbance.” She and his lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said questions the police had directed at her, Mr. Tie and others showed that the first charge was based on his work publishing the memoirs of people who, like him, were purged as “rightist” enemies of the party from 1957 on, after Mao had invited criticism, and then, stung by the depth of discontent, turned on his critics.

For years, Mr. Tie has published those memoirs, often handwritten accounts of the years the rightists endured in labor camps as political pariahs, in compilations printed in the hundreds and shared among survivors and scholars. Chinese authorities heavily censor accounts of the past, and the memoirs could never have been published officially. But for years, the police ignored Mr. Tie’s home publishing, even leafing through copies when officers made one of their regular visits, Ms. Ren said. (Like other politically outspoken citizens, Mr. Tie was under watch by the police.)


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