Editor's note: This is the second of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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BEIJING -- Bo Xilai was just 3 months old when Mao Tse-tung declared the creation of Communist China in front of thousands of people who filled Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
That was in 1949, the year the People’s Republic of China came into being and when Beijing was called Beiping. Years later, Mao’s teachings would shape the thinking of Bo and his family, leading to visions of power, radical actions and also tragedy.
Bo, the fourth of seven siblings, studied with other children of the party elite at Beijing No. 4 High School. In 1966, Bo, as a student of China’s best school, got his first experience of the Cultural Revolution, the social-political movement started by Mao.
Bo quickly became enamored by the campaign to rekindle revolutionary fervor and purify the party. Along with other children of party cadre and with his face reddened with excitement, Bo would often shout out his thoughts and visions in his classroom, according to one graduate of the school.
One of Bo’s favorite phrases was: “We will be the leaders of the future China.”
Bo joined the “jiuchadui” (picket corps), a Red Guard unit. To condemn party leaders regarded as Mao’s rivals, such as Chairman Liu Shaoqi, Bo and his fellow Red Guards scoured various parts of the city, including Zhongnanhai, Beijing’s political power center where many party leaders’ houses and offices are located.
The following year, however, even Bo’s father, Bo Yibo, who had served as vice premier, became a target of the purges and was dragged before a crowd that had gathered in Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium.
Things would never be the same.
According to a party member who knew the Bo family well back then, Bo’s mother tried to go to Southeast Asia to escape persecution. But she got caught when she reached Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and died an unnatural death.
After their mother’s death, the Bo brothers became very violent, even by the standards of the Red Guards.
Bo was detained after he hit a donkey with a four-wheel-drive vehicle he had stolen. He was sent to a farm in a Beijing suburb for forced labor, where he and other inmates were squeezed into a room with iron-barred windows.
The inmates toiled on the farm during the day and took classes on Mao’s philosophy after sunset.
A man at the same labor camp said Bo and other extremely hungry inmates once fought over a sparrow that had flown into their room. They caught it, plucked it and ate it, he said.
Yang Fan, a 61-year-old professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, who has known a younger brother of Bo since they were children and also attended Beijing No. 4 High School, recalls how they were indoctrinated in Mao’s ideology.
“In that era, Mao’s thoughts were drilled into our heads,” Yang says. “Times have changed, but our fundamental ideas and values have remained unchanged. We are Mao’s children, raised by Mao.”
The Cultural Revolution ended in 1976 with Mao’s death. Bo’s fortunes then took a sharp upturn.
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The first installment of this series is available at:
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