“I, PU YI, HAVE NO CONSCIENCE. DESPITE THE FACT THAT the government has given me humane treatment I have nevertheless concealed things and violated prison regulations. I have committed a crime against the State. These jewels were never mine; they belonged to the people. Until now I never understood this.”
I stood in the reception room of the Center Chief with my head bowed. On a desk near the window were the 468 pieces of jewelry shining with a brilliance that would make anyone wish to possess them.
The Chief stared at me attentively as I spoke. Then he nodded his head. “Please sit down,” he said. “You must have gone through a great deal of mental anguish regarding this affair.”
I replied that I had been very uneasy and then went on to elaborate my difficulties, but in all that I said at that time, only the last sentence was important. “I didn’t dare to be frank with you because I was afraid that even if I should confess, I still might not receive lenient treatment.”
“Why was that?” the Chief asked as the trace of a smile darted across the corners of his mouth. “Was it because you were an emperor?”
I hesitated for a while and then admitted he was right.
“I don’t blame you for entertaining this kind of thought,” the Chief continued with the smile still on his lips. “You have a special history and naturally you have many special thoughts. However, I wish to tell you once more, the Communist Party and the People’s Government are always true to their word. It doesn’t matter what kind of status you once had; after you have confessed and if you can reform yourself more completely, you may even receive a reduced sentence. If you should be able to achieve an act of genuine merit you might even receive a reward. It’s always up to the individual. The fact that you did not surrender these jewels prior to this time, means that you have committed a violation of prison regulations. But now, since you have confessed voluntarily and recognized your mistake, this indicates that you show regret for your previous conduct. I definitely will not give you hard treatment.”
After he had finished speaking he ordered the guard outside the door to summon someone from the Custodial Section whom he asked to inventory the jewelry and to provide me with a receipt. “Even if the government is unwilling to confiscate them,” I said, “I myself would like to contribute them to the State.”
“No, it’s better for us to keep them for you,” the Chief explained. And then, just before walking out of the room, he turned to face me and said, “As I have told you previously, insofar as we are concerned, a man who has been reformed is more valuable to us than jewels.”
When I returned to my cell with the receipt for the jewelry, my cellmates gave me an unprecedented welcome and congratulated me on my progress.
“Oh, Pu, we never thought of you showing such bravery, we do so admire you,” they said. They had all stopped calling me Mr. Pu for some time, and I now found this familiar form of address most comforting.
This sort of praise from them was unprecedented, for since I had started to wash my clothing and do my mending myself, my appearance had become so sloppy that the respect my cellmates had shown me had been greatly reduced. Some had given me the nickname of “secondhand shop.” Also, whenever I had made a mistake in class, I would at once become the object of unreserved laughter. Now they embraced me, and I immediately felt proud.
Later, during the rest period in the courtyard, I overheard our former Ambassador to Japan talking about the case in a way that touched my heart. “Pu is really not so dumb,” I heard him say. “He has gained the initiative by confessing his ownership of the jewelry. What he did was correct. Besides, I don’t think he could have concealed them much longer. The information the government holds in its hands today is simply unimaginable. You can understand what I mean if you consider all the cases reported in the press. Tens of thousands of people have supplied information to the government.”
Hearing his talk made me think about the lies in the draft of my reminiscences and feel that I could not fool the government officials. But if I were to speak out, perhaps I could pass through this ordeal peacefully, just as had been the case with the jewelry. Of course, this was a political problem rather than an economic one and the Center Chief had said nothing about it. But, nevertheless, it made me wonder if I would receive the same kind of treatment.
According to the exposures of anti-Communist activity reported in the press, those who admitted their guilt by confession were being treated leniently. News regarding the settlement of these cases was becoming more and more frequent. I had talked many times with my cell section chief, Wang, a former judge of the Manchukuo regime, about these cases, and his analysis of them always had the effect of making me see the relationship between my particular case and the ones receiving such publicity.
Not long after this, the Center asked us to supply material on the criminal actions of the Japanese in the Northeast for use in connection with its proceedings against them. When the Communist cadre in the Center announced this to us someone asked whether, besides the behavior of the Japanese, we should write about something else.
The cadre member replied, “Of course, you can, but the main thing we want to know about is the criminal action of the Japanese bandits.”
Upon hearing this exchange, I couldn’t help but become worried again. What did this mean, writing about “something else”? “Something else” clearly meant the Chinese, and the war criminals among the Chinese meant me. Would my own family write about me?
When my fellow prisoners wrote about criminal action regarding the Japanese in Manchukuo they were very accurate. In my own section, on the first day, more than ten copybooks of material were produced, and Wang, after collecting all the material submitted, said, “Our result is very good. Tomorrow I’m sure we’ll produce even more.”
On the second day we wrote all day long. I, however, had produced much less than on the previous day. But as Wang collected it, he still seemed satisfied, at least with what the others had produced.
“You people can well imagine,” he said, “how much more material the people in the Northeast themselves will write. Thus, you can estimate the enormous amount of material in government hands. Those of you who have had judicial experience will know how it works. Once you have evidence you need not worry about those who do not talk. In the old days, the judicial organ of government felt that it was very difficult to gather evidence, but now, in the People’s Government, the common people all gladly supply material. The situation is completely different.”
My heart nearly jumped through my throat on hearing this. It was not the first time I had heard how the government was in possession of lots of material. That very morning we had discussed an item in the newspaper about the arrest of a counter-revolutionary in Hunan who had assassinated a Red Army general way back in 1935, and who had hidden in the mountains for many years. How had they found his hiding place? Perhaps the Communist Party had been collecting evidence on this man for years and had it available in its files, pending investigation.
On the third day of our writing about the Japanese in the Northeast, I heard footsteps at the foot of the stairs. Turning around, I saw a middle-aged stranger who was followed by the Center Chief. Based on previous experience, I judged that he was someone from high up in the Public Security Organization who had come for an inspection of the prison.
The inspector examined each and every cell and also listened to the names of the prisoners as read off by the Chief. His face remained expressionless and, although he did not wear an army uniform, he looked like a military man.
“What are you doing?” he asked as he stopped outside my cell. His eyes bored into me.
I stood up and reported that I was writing about the criminal actions of the Japanese. He seemed interested in my reply. “What kind of criminal actions of the Japanese bandits do you know of?” he asked.
I told him about a report I had once received on the execution of workers at a construction site of a secret base. Perhaps it was due to my supersensitivity, or perhaps it was really the case, I do not know, but I sensed that the trace of a smile that had originally shown on his face seemed to disappear. His eyes became stern.
“At the time I originally heard the story I was much agitated. I had never expected the Japanese to be so cruel,” I added, most uncomfortably.
“Why didn’t you protest to the Japanese?” he asked, as he looked straight into my eyes.
I felt that he was very angry and immediately I bowed my head. “. . . I . . . didn’t dare,” I replied.
“You didn’t dare? Were you afraid? Was that it?” He did not wait for my reply. “Fear . . . fear, to think that fear could change a man to this extent.”
“No,” I answered. “It was not fear. . . . It happened as a result of my own crimes and mistakes. I can only admit my crimes to the people. Even if ten thousand deaths were meted out to me, I could not wash away my guilt.”
“You don’t need to be like that,” he said quietly. “Don’t try to take everything on your own shoulders. You can only be responsible for what is yours. You should deal with facts. What is yours you cannot erase, but what is not yours, you should not assume.”
But I still continued to talk on about my guilt and how I had made up my mind to reform. Meanwhile, I noticed that he was conducting an inspection of my cell. He even asked one of my cellmates to hand over his mouthwash cup for inspection. After I finally finished speaking, he shook his head and said, “We must depend on facts. So long as one can really admit guilt and show by facts the degree of his guilt he will receive very lenient treatment. You must use facts to explain and illustrate your progress and not empty talk. Do your best.”
He then glanced casually at the things I had written and went to the neighboring cell. From this time on, the inspector’s pair of stern eyes stayed with me, as well as his words: “You must base your story on facts, not empty talk.”
He had made me feel that I myself was confronted with an irresistible and driving and thrusting force, the kind of force that was able to get to the bottom of everything. It was because of this same force that a man who had murdered a Red Army Chief in 1935 could not escape his fate, even though he had hidden for years deep in a mountain. I now felt that because of this thrusting force, nothing could escape revelation.
A few days later, I took up my pen and put down in detail, far greater detail than heretofore, all the facts about my activities in Tientsin and the relationship between me and my courtiers on the one hand, and the Japanese on the other, as well as my meeting with Doihara.
Two days later, our Section Chief told me that the Center authorities had read what I had written and felt I had shown important progress which should be commended.
At the end of 1952 we moved to another building with larger rooms where there were new wooden boards for beds, as well as tables, wooden benches and bright windows. I began to feel that what the Center Chief had said about my reformation was true, especially since I had received no punishment, but rather a commendation for what I had written about my collaboration with the Japanese.
In the spring of 1953, the Center entered into a working agreement with a pencil factory in Harbin. The prisoners pasted up the paper boxes that contained the pencils and, from this time on, every day, we would work at making paper boxes four hours a day and would study four hours.
The authorities explained that this arrangement would be useful in breaking the monotony of our lives and, furthermore, since we had never before worked as laborers, it would be good for us.
These words were to have a particular meaning for me. Needless to say, in the past I had never even sharpened a pencil, to say nothing of having pasted a pencil box. I had never paid any attention to the boxes pencils came in and I did not know how much trouble it took to make them. But after a while, all my curiosity over the process was lost. Pencil boxes and paste became synonymous and I was reduced to a state of confusion. By the time others had finished several boxes, I had not yet completed one of them. I had no concept of manual work.
“What have you done to this one?” Hsien, who had been Chief of Military Hospitals in Manchukuo, asked me one day as he picked up one of my boxes. “How come it cannot be opened? What do you call it?”
Hsien was the son of Prince Su. He and several of his brothers and sisters had been educated in Japan and he had studied medicine there. Lady Yamagishi was his younger sister. One of his brothers had been mayor of Harbin and his whole family was pro-Japanese. When we had met for the first time in Soviet Russia, he had knelt before me, saying, “Your slave now has the opportunity to see his master.”
Now he was in my section and enjoyed picking bones with me. He was a very irritable man, easily aroused against others, and, yet, if he got into an argument, he could never win it. Since my work was incomparably poorer than others and since I never had the courage to argue, I had become the escape hatch for his own emotions.
Hsien’s meddling in my affairs aroused the attention of the other workers in our section and they came over to observe my problems and began to laugh. I grabbed the box from Hsien and threw it on the discard pile. “Why do you set yourself up arbitrarily as the official reporter on waste?” I asked him.
“Who has reported waste?” he answered as he stared at me and opened his eyes wide.
“Even though my pasting is a little inferior, it doesn’t mean that the boxes can’t be used,” I muttered. Then I picked up the pencil box from the waste pile and put it back on the pile of finished boxes.
“And even though you put it over there,” he answered, as he pointed at the box, “it’s still a waste item.”
I became so angry that I began to tremble uncontrollably. “You can only cope with me. You are someone who always jumps on a weak person. I’m about the only man you can handle.”
This remark touched him on his raw spot and he blushed. “Who have I bullied? Who am I afraid of?” he shouted. “You still think you are the Emperor; do you want people to worship you?”
Fortunately, none of the workers paid any attention to him and he stopped shouting when the Section Chief came up, but this did not end the quarrel because Hsien was not a person to give up easily. The following day when we went to work, he selected a seat next to me. From the moment we commenced, he began to look at my work with a critical eye. I turned my back on him and, even though my day’s work could not compare with the others, at least it showed some progress.
The Center used the money it obtained from our labor to buy candies and sweets for us. This was the first time in my life that I enjoyed something as the result of my own physical labor and I felt that the candy I received was really better than any I had ever tasted. But, unfortunately, as soon as it was issued to us, Hsien started talking, “Today Pu Yi’s results have not been so bad.”
“Not bad, nothing was wasted,” I answered him.
“You would do better to be more humble,” he said, chuckling.
“Am I not humble when I say I did not have any waste?” I was really angry at heart and the candy no longer seemed sweet. What I disliked the most was that Hsien had a compulsion to be critical when others were happy. “If I produce any more waste items, you can be critical of me again,” I added.
I hoped that when I said this he would stop and I would not have to talk to him again. I did not expect that he would pick up one of my finished boxes, hold it up in the air, and say to everyone, “Please look at this!”
As I raised my head to look at it, I nearly swallowed my candy. I had pasted the label on upside down. I became so mad, I felt like taking a box and throwing it at Hsien’s face. “Do whatever you wish to do,” I growled after a while.
“Uh, now look at all the big talk! Still showing the smelly pomp of an Emperor,” he droned on. Then he raised his voice. “When I criticized you it was for your own good. Why don’t you admit it?” As he heard the footsteps of the guards outside the door, he raised his voice even louder. “Do you still entertain the illusion of becoming an emperor again?” he asked.
“You are talking utter nonsense,” I said. “I am dumber than you; I cannot compare with you in either talking or working. By nature I am not as able as you. Now, will that do?”
Everyone had left their benches and come over to try and stop our quarrel. Our workroom held eighteen people. There were, besides me, three former Manchukuo civilian high officials and fourteen military officers. Our Section Chief, Wei, was a former military man and Chang Ching-hui, the former Premier of Manchukuo, was one of the three civilians, but he had become senile and did not study or work and seldom talked.
That evening, with the exception of Chang Ching-hui, the others participated in a discussion regarding the now famous “paper box incident.” One man criticized Hsien saying, “He should not have raised his voice.” Another criticized me saying, “If I had not pasted the box right, I should have admitted it at once and not taken an unfriendly attitude.” A Mongol named Kuo felt that the attitude of Hsien was wrong from beginning to end and that I was entirely justified in getting angry. Another, who was friendly with Hsien, opposed Kuo and another believed that the whole incident should be discussed at our Saturday review and self-criticism session with the prison authorities.
As the talk went on, neither side would give in. But all of a sudden, everyone became quiet. I turned my head and saw that Chief Li, a cadre member in charge of our study section, had come into the room. After he heard the story, he picked up the paper box on which I had pasted the label upside down, and said, “This is a very small item; it’s not worth quarreling about. Since the label was pasted upside down, paste another label right side up on top of it.”
The suggestion quieted everyone, but the incident was not yet finished. A few days later, Little Jui, who was responsible for distributing paper box material to us, told us that several of the working groups wanted to start a labor competition and asked whether we wished to participate. All of us indicated our approval. Little Jui also told us that the group to which Little Ku belonged had initiated a “speedy pasting process,” the efficiency of which was 100 percent higher and thus our group felt that if we were to join the competition we could no longer use our old method and that we would have to devise a newer and more efficient one. Someone advocated a “water flow” or mass production system by which each man would specialize on one phase of the work; one would paste the bottom of the box, another put on the paper, another the label, etc., etc. We all agreed to try it out and I was pleased because I felt that, in this division of labor, the work would be simpler and less confusing. I didn’t foresee that new problems for me would develop.
Under this new “water flow” system, everything piled up on me and the “water” could not flow through my hands. Hsien noticed it at once. “If one of the workers on the production line is not up to scratch, then what do we do?” he asked.
On this occasion, I did not pick a quarrel with him. I looked at the pile of half-completed boxes in front of me and, when I heard one of my colleagues say that my production was not up to standard and that the waste rate was high, I knew that this time neither the Mongol Kuo nor our Section Chief would oppose Hsien.
Thus, I decided to withdraw from the “water flow” process and undertook to labor alone. This was the second time since my return to China that I endured the horror of loneliness. The first time had been when I was separated from my family members. I felt as if I had been stripped naked in front of everyone and this emotion was made doubly acute when I saw on Hsien’s face, which was like the rough skin of an orange, his satisfaction over my misery. I wanted to find someone sympathetic to talk with, but in my unit everyone was working and not interested in talking.
Soon after this, I caught the flu and the night I came down with it I had a nightmare in which I saw Hsien’s orangeskin-like face approaching me. “You are a good-for-nothing man, you are only fit to be a beggar,” he said.
Then I dreamed I was standing on a bridge. The scene was exactly like the ones the eunuchs used to describe to me of the Peking beggars standing on the bridges of the city. Suddenly someone put a hand on my head and woke me up. In a blurred way, I was aware that a person in white was standing over me and feeling my forehead with his hands. “You have a high fever; your flu is getting worse. Let me examine you,” a voice said.
I was dizzy and my head felt as if my blood vessels were jumping. As I pulled myself together, I began to understand what had happened. The prison guard had heard me talking and shouting in my sleep and had tried to wake me, but couldn’t, so he had reported my condition to the Center Chief who, in turn, had asked the military doctor to come and see me.
The doctor took my temperature and a nurse gave me an injection. I fell asleep again immediately and didn’t even know when they left. I was sick for nearly a half month. During this period, I spent most of my time in bed. I neither studied nor worked.
I did more thinking during this half month than I had during the past few years. My mind raced back and forth between the paper box incident and the face of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, which had frightened me as a child and made me cry. Heretofore, whenever I recalled that blurred image, I had only felt that the Empress Dowager had been someone to be feared. But now I felt that she was to be hated. Why should she have chosen me Emperor? I was an innocent and pure child at the time. My natural disposition and endowments were no different from those of my brother, Pu Chieh. But since I was to become an emperor, I had been raised in a vacuumlike atmosphere and no one had taught me the basic things of life. Thus, today, my practical knowledge and ability could not be compared with Pu Chieh’s; in fact, they could not be compared with a child. Because of this, I now received insults, jeers, sarcasm and bullying from men like Hsien. I really didn’t know how I could go on living.
In the past, whenever I had heard jeering or suggestive innuendoes, or whenever my lack of ability was pointed out by others, my heart had been filled with hatred. But now I began to feel that I should not hate them, for I was no longer in a position to avoid being laughed at and scolded.
In place of this hatred, a new kind of hostility developed in me against the Forbidden City. Shortly before my recovery, the Center Chief sent for me and we discussed my health and the quarrel with Hsien, as well as the education I had received as a child.
I said to him, “At the time the quarrel occurred, I was really very much agitated, but now I’m no longer angry and can only blame myself for being so difficult. Also, I blame the people in the Peking Palace.”
“Very good; you have recognized your weakness! This is progress. Inability is not something to worry about, so long as you are willing and able to recognize it and turn it into ability. It is even more important that you have found out the reason for it. Can you think why the princes and high officials educated you as they did?”
“They were only thinking about themselves,” I answered. “They disregarded me. They were selfish.”
“I’m afraid it wasn’t at all like that,” the Center Chief replied, not unkindly. “Can you honestly say that your father and your tutor Chen Pao-shen purposely tried to harm you?”
I couldn’t reply.
“You may take time to think about this problem. If you can understand it, then your illness will have had great value for your future life.”
After I returned to my cell from the Center Chief’s office, I could not dismiss the problem from my mind and, by the time I attended our regularly scheduled self-criticism review session, the first I had gone to since my illness, I had been over it several times. During this meeting, someone criticized Hsien, saying that he was unfriendly and had purposely sought to attack me. A majority seemed to be against him and there was one person who even laid the responsibility for my illness on him. Based on their self-criticism, I gathered that they all felt Hsien was having a bad effect on our reformation and remolding. Hsien, who was present, clearly became worried about this and his face turned gray; he stuttered as he sought to deliver his own self-criticism.
I did not say a word during the session, but I continued to think about my own family. When someone suggested that I should say something, Hsien’s face became ashen. “I don’t have any opinion,” I said in a low voice. “I blame my own lack of ability.”
Everyone was taken by surprise at this and Hsien’s mouth fell open. Then, all of a sudden, I began to shout and my voice became strident. “I hate the place I was born and raised in! I hate that devilish system! It was designed to ruin a person when he was young. I hate it! I hate it!” Then my voice cracked as if my vocal cords had been seized by a sudden cramp. I could no longer speak or even hear what others said.
From the end of 1953 until early 1954, we were assigned the subject of imperialism to study intensively, and in March, our Center was moved to Fushun. Shortly thereafter a working group of specially trained investigation specialists arrived to commence processing the confessional material we had produced.
At our particular Center for the Manchukuo detainees, this processing was opened with a big meeting at which the responsible personnel of the investigating group addressed us.
“You people,” they explained, “have gone through several years of study and re-education. Now, the time for admission of guilt has arrived. By this time you should have arrived at a very accurate understanding of your past conduct. You should be able to recognize what has been criminal in your past and be able to supply information on the criminal actions of the Japanese and of other Chinese traitors. The ultimate treatment you will receive from the Government will be based, on the one hand, on your own criminal conduct; and, on the other hand, on your attitude. The policy of the Government is to be lenient toward those who have confessed and sterner toward those who have resisted.”
Our Center Chief then announced that he would not allow the prisoners to exchange information during the processing period and that notes and letters between the prisoners were henceforth prohibited. Thus, every day during recreation, each group would go to the courtyard separately and could not meet with the other groups.
After this meeting, all the groups returned to their respective cells to hold intra-cell discussion sessions. It was agreed among my cellmates that each and every one of us would be frank in our confessions in order to struggle for more lenient treatment; and, in order to gain the confidence of the newly arrived special investigating personnel, I decided to rewrite my reminiscences in greater detail and in a more systematic way.
But this did not prove to be so simple. When I came to the last days of the Manchukuo government and the Soviet Russian declaration of war against Japan, I recalled a particular incident. I had been worried that at this critical point the Japanese might become suspicious of me, so I had tried to curry favor with the Kwantung Army. On the night following the Soviet war declaration, I, acting without instructions, had asked the Premier, Chang Ching-hui, and a Japanese in charge of the General Affairs Bureau to come and see me and I gave them an oral decree asking the people of Manchukuo to support the Japanese Imperial Army in its resistance of the Soviet invasion.
Should I lie about this? If I did not confess it, it was unlikely that other people would know about it. Chang Ching-hui was clearly senile and the former head of the General Affairs Bureau had vanished. In this particular incident the Japanese had not prompted me to take action, and if I admitted it, wouldn’t this arouse the suspicion of the investigators so that they would feel I was not always controlled by the Japanese? My final decision was that it was not important if I “forgot” one or two incidents like this. I could thus place the whole responsibility on the Japanese.
Previously, I had never paid attention to the suffering caused by the Japanese in the Northeast. Ten years had passed and I thought this was not my concern. As a consequence, I failed to appreciate the implications insofar as my confession was concerned, in the fact that the Japanese detainees themselves, who were in other Centers at Fushun, had undergone changes in their point of view during their ten-year “study” period.
At an important meeting, attended by my own Center inmates and cadre teams (organized by the Japanese “study committee,” which had been formed after the majority of Japanese detainees had undergone enlightenment with respect to their own thoughts), several Japanese talked about their “studies” and frankly confessed many criminal actions, and even accused others.
During these confessions they discussed massacres, their opium policy, atrocities, etc., and these confessions and exposures of Japanese policy especially agitated the younger Manchukuo detainees. I was, as a result, thus denounced by my own nephews, brothers-in-law and Big Li, and was enmeshed in an atmosphere of hatred that came at me from all directions, even from my family clan. It was as if I were trapped in a hall of mirrors from each and every angle of which I could only see myself reflected in a hostile light.
This occurred at a subsequent meeting in our own Center. After we had returned from the conference organized by the Japanese “study committee,” we were asked to talk about our feelings. Many people still felt agitated by the Japanese confessions and, one after another, stood up to talk. They voluntarily confessed their own actions and accused others. The accusations were for the most part concentrated on the former Manchukuo Minister of Justice, but I was afraid that I would also be accused by others who might not know that I had already confessed. Thus, I felt the need to talk at this conference in order to indicate my own attitude.
But after I had supplemented my pre-Japanese meeting confession with additional material, Little Ku unexpectedly stood up from the audience and questioned me. “You have said a lot, but how come you did not mention the note?” he asked.
I was shocked speechless.
“The note! The note Little Jui gave you,” he continued.
Then Little Hsiu stood up and said, “A moment ago you mentioned that all of your jewels and treasure were surrendered voluntarily. Why didn’t you mention that it was prompted by Little Jui?”
“Correct. Correct,” I mumbled. “I was about to mention it, I was about to say that this action was actually initiated by Little Jui, but . . . but . . .” Fortunately the meeting was adjourned at this point.
Upon my return to my cell, I again took up my pen and wrote an additional self-exposure document for the Center authorities. When I thought how angry the Center Director would become when he found out these new details and how I had withheld them, I couldn’t help but blame Little Jui. Why should he have told the others about this incident? After all, we still belonged to the same family.
Each accusation had to be read by the accused person himself. Investigator Chiao showed me the file of material on me and asked me to examine it and initial the points on which I agreed and write a defense on the points with which I disagreed.
I first read the documents written by some of the former high Manchukuo officials and I signed my name to these. Subsequently, I read the documents written by my family clan. Before I had finished the first one, a cold sweat came out on the palms of my hands. For they contained even more denunciations than at the recent meeting that had followed the revelations by the Japanese. One of them was as follows:
On August 9, 1945, I entered the palace at night to see Pu Yi. Pu Yi was writing on a piece of paper. At that time, the Premier and a Japanese were waiting outside for a chance to see him. Pu Yi showed me the note he was writing. The contents were something like this: “Order all the military and civilian people in Manchukuo to join up with the Japanese Imperial Army to fight in order to crush the Soviet invaders.” Pu Yi told me he would show this note to the Premier and the Japanese.
There was also the following:
At the movies in the palace, whenever the Japanese Emperor was shown on the screen, Pu Yi would stand at attention. Whenever there were scenes showing the Japanese occupation of new areas, he applauded because the movie projector operator was Japanese. In 1944, to save coal and charcoal, Pu Yi ordered that the heat should be turned off in his residence, but he kept an electric heater in his bedroom. When Pu Yi escaped to Talitzu-kou he put some Japanese gods and a picture of Hirohito’s mother in the compartment of the train and each time he passed them, he made a 90-degree bow and also ordered others to do the same.
In Little Jui’s accusation, he reported the following item:
He (Pu Yi) used about 20 orphans as servants. Some were eleven or twleve years old whose parents had been murdered by the Japanese invaders and who had been taken care of by a general relief association. They worked 17 to 18 hours a day and received only poor food to eat. He used all kinds of cruel punishment on them. Beating their palms was common and this was the lightest punishment they received. At times they were put in wooden cages. When they became eighteen or nineteen their height was only that of a child of twelve. An assistant of Pu Yi once beat an orphan to death and yet Pu Yi claims he is a Buddhist and vegetarian and has never even wanted to kill a fly or mosquito.
Big Li showed his hostility in another document:
Pu Yi is both cruel and afraid of death. He is suspicious, tricky and a hypocrite. When he beat or scolded his servants, it was not for mistakes they committed, but due to his own mood at the time. If he did not feel well, or was tired, then the servants would suffer all kinds of punishment, the lightest form of which was when he used his fists or kicked them. Yet when he met outsiders this hypocrite was the best of men.
There were wooden benches and horsewhips in Tientsin. In Manchukuo there were new forms of punishment added. He tried to train many accomplices to beat people and if they were slow at it, he would accuse them of siding with his victims and then they themselves would be beaten.
His nephews and attendants have all beaten others. On one occasion, a twelve- or thirteen-year-old orphan was so badly beaten he got a cut one foot long. It took a physician two or three months to cure him and, during the treatment, Pu Yi asked me to send the boy milk and other things and tell him that His Majesty was kind and ask him if he would have gotten such goodies in an orphanage.
After I had read all this material, even the arguments for my own defense, which I had just completed, seemed shaken to their roots. I had always found justification for my actions in the belief that someone else in my position would have done the same thing. Thus, when I had submitted to Japanese pressure and followed their directions, I had rationalized that I had to do it and had no other alternative. And when I made demands on family members or took away or gave them things, or punished them, I had felt that these actions were within my prerogatives. All this had seemed to me natural and reasonable. Now I understood that there were other people who were not like this, and that my family members were no longer interested in maintaining my reputation as the last Manchu Emperor.
The investigation material on conditions in the Northeast under the Japanese had demonstrated that there were common people who, even under extreme pressures, would not bend as I had done.
For example, there had been a common farmer named Hsiao Chen-fang who had helped his uncle send food to the Communist resistance movement and also acted as guide for the Communist army and undertook various resistance tasks. On April 21, 1943, in the middle of the night, six policemen suddenly entered his house. Since his uncle was absent, he was bound and taken to police headquarters for questioning. The police beat him nearly to death and later poured cold water into his nose to revive him and then beat him again. They did this four times, but he told them nothing. The last time they beat him they thought he was dead and had him taken to a common grave in a “sanitary cart.”
While en route, this stubborn man revived and was saved by one of the cart drivers.
Also, in 1943, a teen-ager named Li Ying-hua sent some fresh eggs to the resistance army and was arrested by the police. At first they served him cigarettes, poured tea for him and invited him to eat. They told him, “You are only a child; we’ll release you as soon as you tell us what you know about the resistance army.” The boy, after he had smoked a cigarette, drunk the tea and eaten the food, said, “I’m only a farm boy. I don’t know a thing!” The Secret Police then hung him upside down, gave him electric shocks, burned him with cigarettes and bumped his body against a nail board. But they found out nothing from him.
Thus, I learned that not all people in the world were softboned and that my own past illustrated that I was the type who would only jump on the weak, that I was afraid of the strong, that I treasured my life and was afraid of death.
In the past, however, I had had a fundamental reason to explain away these defects in character. I had believed that as the last Manchu Emperor my existence was more precious than others. But in the past few years, as a laundry worker and paper-box paster, and in the light of the investigations of conditions of the Northeast common people and in the attitude of my family, I could see that in this new light my life had a different value. Within this frame of reference, I was both guilty and inglorious. I thus had no more reason to defend my past deeds and so I signed my name on the last copy of the material the Center had given me.