Song Binbin pins Red Guard armband on Mao Zedong
Song Binbin, a former Red Guard and daughter of late People’s Liberation Army general Song Renqiong, made a public apology in Beijing for taking part in what is often described as one of the first killings of the Cultural Revolution.
The 64-year-old along with a group of her former classmates made an apology during a speech on Sunday at the Experimental High School attached to Beijing Normal University, where on August 5, 1966, she was the ringleader of the Red Guards who notoriously beat and then killed their supposedly “counter-revolutionary” principal, Bian Zhongyun.
Song, whose father was a member of the “Eight Immortals”, was studying at the Beijing high school at the time and had become a symbolic figure in the Red Guard movement after she met with Mao Zedong on top of the Tiananmen Rostrum in 1966.
According to the South China Morning Post, Song Binbin told local news reports that “I would like to express my ongoing grief and apologies to principal Bian,” and “The inability to protect school leaders is my lifelong regret.”
“I did not [intervene] but was unable to prevent the violence towards Principal Bian and other school staff,” she said. “If we do not thoroughly understand and examine the mindset behind the entire Cultural Revolution era, similar incidents will happen again.”
Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University, told the Telegraph that he believed Song had not held the “main responsibility” for the principal’s death “but she didn’t stop the crime, and she was a participant in many ways.”
A documentary about the principal’s murder was reportedly banned in the mainland.
The high-profile speech follows that of another former Red Guard, Chen Xiaolu, who, in October of last year, came out publicly to apologize for the torture of his former teachers at Beijing No.8 Middle School. He was the son of former foreign minister Chen Yi.
“On behalf of those in the Number Eight Middle School who had done harm to you, I express our sincere apologies to you,” the 67-year-old told his former teachers.
“It is basically out of their conscience,” Professor Zhang said of the most recent apologies. “They are getting old and it is time to confess and repent”.