Defiant to the end, Mao Tse-tung's widow Jiang Qing faced her accusers and judges Dec. 29 for the last time before her sentencing. "When you vilify me, you are vilifying Chairman Mao And the Cultural Revolution in which millions of people participated," she declaimed in a televised portion of the proceedings.
She referred to herself as Mao's "wife for 38 years" and as "the only woman who followed him onto the battlefield." When the audience laughed, she shouted, "And where were you hiding [then]?"
Prosecutor Jiang Wen in effect asked for the death penalty, recommending that the defendant be given "heavier punishment in accordance with Article 103 of the criminal law." This article provides for capital punishment for counterrevolutionary crimes. The prosecutor described Jiang Qing's offenses as "particularly flagrant" and said she had done "particularly grave harm to the state and the people."
He also delivered one of the sharpest public criticisms yet of Chairman Mao, saying, "The people of all nationalities throughout the country are very clear that Chairman Mao was responsible, so far as his leadership was concerned, for their plight during the Cultural Revolution, and he was also responsible for failing to see through the Lin Biao and Jiang Qing counterrevolutionary cliques."
"However," he continued, "the party, the Army, and the people of all our nationalities will never, for this reason, forget or obliterate Chairman Mao's great contributions to overthrowing the 'three great mountains' [imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism)$, founding the People's Republic of China, and pioneering the socialist cause in Chian." The Chairman's "great achievements are primary, while his mistakes are secondary," the prosecutor said.
It would appear that this evaluation of the late chairman was necessitated by Jiang Qing's passionate defense of the Cultural Revolution and all its works during the court debate Dec. 24.
The court debate, equivalent to summations by the defense and by the prosecution in western courts, gives the accused or his lawyers a final chance to sum up arguments on his behalf, and the prosecution to do the same on its behalf. It is not really a debate, in the sense that there is no questioning or counterquestioning by either side.
Since Jiang Qing refused the court's offer of defense lawyers, she conducted her own defense.
Televised portions of the court debate telescoped the Dec. 2j and 29 sessions into one. But enough was shown to get across that she justified her actions as being entirely in accordance with the instructions not only of Chaiman Mao, but also of the party Central Committee. "You call black white," she said, and at another point, "You find bones in eggs." She accused the present party leadership, including Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping, of revisionism.
Court officials had anticipated that she would try to wrap herself in Chairman Mao's mantle. In fact, she did much more. Her total justification of the Cultural Revolution smacked of an attempt to provide an ideological rallying point for all past or potential opponents of the present leadership. Many conservative Communists are said to consider the Dengist leadership's present policies as unorthodox not downright heretical.
A New China News Agency account of the court debate Dec. 29 said that she hurled abuses at the defense and prosecution and attacked current party and state leaders as "reactionaries," "counterrevolutionaries," and "fascists." The presiding judge characterized these remarks as "a fresh offense" and said the court would "pursue her criminal liability in accordance with the law."
Nine other defendants already have concluded their court debates. Three of them, together with Jiang Qing, constitute the so-called "gang of four" that held sway throughout the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Five are military personnel implicated in Marshal Lin Biao's coup attempt of 1971. The tenth, Chen Boda, once Mao's private secretary, was purged in 1970.
All 10 are accused of having begun the Cultural Revolution and of having cooperated with each other during its early stages. Only in the case of Jiang Qing did the prosecutor specifically ask for the death sentence, although he did ask for "severe punishment" in the case of Zhang Chunqiao, a member of the "gang of four" who remained obstinately silent throughout the trial.