Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 1. 1967.
Red guards friendly
Red guards friendly
Wellington.—"The situation here is fantastic. It is literally impossible for description in words. The whole place is in a turmoil and there is an air of frenzied activity as hundreds upon hundreds of Red Guards walk the streets reading posters, criticise the leaders, discuss and debate."
So writes Kent Pearson, leader of the New Zealand student party, from Canton, where he gives an eyewitness account of China's "cultural revolution."
'Yet there is an order and restraint about it which would be impossible in a western country. When the crowds grow to thousands as they do every night in Canton's Cultural Park and sing revolutionary songs the mass emotion is frignteningty high; yet they are controlled as individuals and are still immediately approachable at an interpersonal level," says Mr. Pearson.
Amount of freedom
We have an amazing amount of freedom. We have so far been able to photograph anything, (the only restriction on photos was on the British side of the border ... as soon as we stepped over the middle line of the bridge on to Communist territory we were immediately to do an about turn and take photos a matter of feet away from the prohibited area.) "Apart from being highly organised in our itinerary and daily activity we are free to walk and talk with anyone, at any time in any place," he adds,.
Conceived as friends
"I have conversed with Red Guards every day ... all are friendly and welcome us as friends. And even en masse, the reaction is spontaneously friendly. Everywhere the cry is against USA imperialism 'and here they speak of meeting violence with violence). But the people, including the American people (the masses) are conceived to be friends and we are treated as such," says Mr. Pearson.
"When we go to a place in a group we immediately find hundreds of people around our buses and quite ' spontaneous clapping and singing breaks out as we emerge. I have never shaken so many hands, the people all wish to touch "the foreigners" and are extremely free in their giving of Mao badges, photographs, etc.
Party with red guards
"Today we saw a commune and I am completely stunned by the intensive agriculture everywhere in the area . . . it's without a doubt far more intense than Japan, with every square yard being utilised.
"Tonight we had a party with over 200 Red Guards . . . again an overwhelming experience.
"The Red Guards were all university students about our own age. Some spoke English, most did not, but there were many interpreters. The re-ception was held in our huge hotel lobby and there were red flags and portraits of Mao at all crucial places on the walls. The total number of people sitting in the room must have been a little under 300 when all the visiting students, Red Guards, interpreters and officials, were counted. We sat at tables about 20 to a table.
"After a speech, Red Guards led the whole assembly in quotations from Mao. (They always start their meeting this way.) Then proceeded a series of items, many of them praising Mao, Mao's thoughts, the unity of the peasants and the progress since the revolution. The only other items (and they always have them) indicated of aggression against American imperialism. After the items we all drank tea and ate supper while discussing freely and informally with the Red Guards at our table.
Know little about us
"We found they know very little about New Zealand and Australia except their geographical position, that there is a great difference between rich and poor and that the United States imperialists are exploiting these countries.
"They listened intently as we tried to explain that the rich are taxed more than the poor, and that the tax goes to pay for free dental, medical, educational and old age benefits. This concept was discussed for over an hour and a half and appeared to be too complicated for them to understand.
"They claim that there are still people who own the factories and these people must always be more wealthy and control the workers and they find it extremely difficult to believe that there are no peasants.
"We tried to explain that in New Zealand there are two per cent of the population on farms, while in China there is 80 per cent, and this also did not make sense. We battled for quite a while and if anyone did any indoctrination, it was us.
"After the discussion period the Red Guards did some more items mostly concerning the topic of destroying United States imperialism wherever it is found and driving them back to their own lands, but also a Tibetan thanksgiving dance, magnificently done by eight girls in traditional Tibetan costume, and seemed to be the only item of a non-political nature ... a complete (and pleasant) surprise.
"The closing speech wished us good health God-speed on our journey invited us to criticise and make suggestions and wished us happy revolutionary experiences." Mr. Pearson's letter concludes.