The trial of Mao Tse-tung's widow, Jiang Qing, and her alleged co-conspirations is expected to begin before a select Chinese audience Nov. 18. It is probably the most sensational event in the 31-year history of the Chinese People's Republic. A criminal trial, it has far-reaching political implications for China's current moderate leadership and for the kind of society the Chinese want their country of 1 billion people to be.
An indictment listing 48 charges has been served on the 10 defendants, who will stand trial in a special court. They are:
1. The "gang of four" headed by Jiang Qing.
2. Five senior armed forces personnel accused of being accomplices of Marshal Lin Biao, who was killed in an air crash while trying to flee the country in September 1971.
3. Chen Boda, former private secretary to Mao Tse-tung, who was purged a year before Marshal Lin's death.
Six deceased persons were named by the special procurator as worthy of being co-dependants if they were alive. They are Lin Biao, his wife and son, and one other person killed in the same air crash; Kang Sheng, for many years the gray eminece of China's security apparatus; and Xie Fuzhi, public security minister under Mr. Kang.
Underscoring the carefulness of the preparations for the trial, the 25-man Politburo and close associates are reported to have watched a 90-minute filmof the pretrial hearing conducted by the special procuratore. The film, screened Nov. 14, is said to have shown jiang Qing, immaculately garbed and with a black wig, completely unrepentant.
Another defendant, former political commissar of the Navy, Li Zuopeng, is said to be similarly unrepentant. The indictment principally covers the period from the outbreak of the so-called Cultural Revolution in 1966 to the downfall of the gang of four in October 1976, a month after Mao's death.
It lists four major charges, according to the official New China News Agency:
1. Framing and persecuting party and state leaders and plotting to overthrow the political power of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
2. Persecuting the suppressing large numbers of cadres and ordinary people.
3. Plotting to assassinate Chairman Mao and stage an armed counterrevolutionary coup d'etat.
4. Plotting an armed rebellion in Shanghai.
The first and second charges apply to all defendants. The third, to the Lin Biao group; the fourth, to the gang of four. The crimes charged in the first and second categories affected large numbers of people, from former Chief of State Liu Shaoqi to ordinary citizens.
all of China's present top leaders except Communist Party Chairman Hua Guofeng suffered persecution at the hands of the defendants.
Yet the leadership insists that vindictiveness is not their purpose.
At the same time, the leadership has a political purpose -- to keep in separate categories the crimes of which they accuse the defendants and the political and policy mistakes they acknowledge Mao, founder of the People's China, made.
Pretrial hearings have shown Jiang Qing's line of defense: that everything of which she is accused, she did on the express orders of Chairman Mao himself.
Sub rosa, some Chinese intellectuals agree with her, at least in believing that Chairman Mao must share a portion of criminal as well as political responsibility. A debate on so sensitive a subject could rend asunder China's still fragile web of unity and stability, because for millions of ordinary Chinese, Mao remains a hero and demigod.