China said for the first time Monday that the late Communist Party chairman, Mao Tse-tung, started and led the Cultural Revolution, now officially described as a national catastrophe.
"Comrade Mao Tse-tung committed mistakes which brought the party and the people great misfortunes in his last years, especially when he personally started and led the 'Great Cultural Revolution,'" a commentary in the party newspaper People's Daily said.
Analysts noted it was the most direct official comment linking Mao to the period of unrest and turmoil, which lasted from 1966 to '76. Although virtually everyone in China knew the late chairman started the Cultural Revolution, the analysts said the remark in the commentary was the clearest and first official statement to say so in post-Mao China.
It also served to link Mao with the "gang of four" and six other defendants in trial for "crimes" committed during the 10-year period.
The People's Daily commentary centered mainly on the trial of the gang, which was led by Mao's widow. But it said that "of course, not only comrade Mao Tse-tung committed errors. Some other comrades in our party committed varying degrees of mistakes."
The commentary said mistakes were not the same as crimes, separating the errors of Mao and the unnamed leaders from the "counterrevolutionary" crimes of the gang of four.