BEIJING — A HIGH-LEVEL military working group is deciding the fate of a Chinese Army writer detained in August for challenging official histories with a critical expos'e on Mao Zedong's Red Army, military sources say. The Army's powerful Political Department set up the investigatory group to mete out punishment for Lt. Col. Zhang Zhenglong, author of the controversial ``White Snow, Red Blood,'' according to an official at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) press.
The group is also attempting to track down and destroy an estimated 100,000 pirated copies of ``White Snow'' printed after the 93,000 copies of the original edition sold out, the official said.
Moreover, military investigators are questioning Red Army veterans interviewed by Mr. Zhang for the book, according to a senior PLA officer. He said some veterans have accused the author of distorting their statements, while others have denied they spoke to him.
The PLA press published White Snow in August 1989, two months after the bloody crackdown on China's pro-democracy movement. The book is a striking symbol of dissatisfaction within the military against hard-line Communist Party leaders and their supporters among the top brass.
Younger, better-educated Army officers oppose efforts by conservative military leaders such as Gen. Yang Baibing and his elder brother, President Yang Shangkun, to rein in the Army with Maoist indoctrination, PLA sources say.
At a meeting last summer at the seaside resort of Beida He, high-ranking military officials complained about the state of the Army in an indirect expression of discontent over the Yang brothers' influence, said the PLA officer. Gen. Yang Baibing heads the Political Department that is investigating White Snow.
Zhang was compelled while in detention to make a ``self-criticism'' saying that he had been influenced by ``bourgeois liberalism,'' the Communist Party's code word for Western political ideas, the PLA press official said.
He said Zhang and Ma Chengyi, the book's editor, have been released from detention while awaiting punishment.
White Snow marks a daring attempt to record truthfully the communists' decisive 1948 campaign against Nationalist forces for control of northeastern China. The author exposes Red Army atrocities, questions Mao's judgment, and extols two figures condemned by the regime: Nationalist Gen. Chiang Kai-shek and Red Army commander Lin Biao.
Marshal Lin perished mysteriously in 1971 after the party accused him of plotting to assassinate Mao.