Biographies & Memoirs


A Special Pardon

ON SEPTEMBER 14, 1959, CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG, ON the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, forwarded a proposal to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress providing for a special pardon for a number of war criminals, counterrevolutionaries and common criminals “who have really been reformed.” According to Chairman Mao the majority of the prisoners under detention had been remolded and their pardon would help “change negative factors into positive ones” and enable the prisoners to realize that “under socialism their future lies in reform.”

This proposal was passed by the Standing Committee on September 17 and the special pardon was proclaimed that same day. The scene created at the Reform Center by this proclamation was unforgettable. When the announcer had finished his last sentence there was a moment of silence followed by an explosion of cheers, slogans and applause. It was as if 10,000 strings of firecrackers had been ignited at one time, and the noise went on for a long time.

All sorts of views were expressed. Some felt the Party and Government were always true to their word and we now had a future and a place to go and it would not be long before we were out. Others said we would be pardoned in groups; some would go out first, others later. Some debated as to who would be included in the first group. Many came to understand that our pardon would depend on our reformation and remolding and thus some regretted their tendency to be slack with their studies. Meanwhile some who tried to be humble and modest about the degree of their reformation and the probability of their early release, nevertheless discreetly tidied up their things, destroyed their discarded notebooks and threw away their worn-out socks.

The courtyard was a babel of voices during the rest period. I heard Old Yuan ask Old Hsien, “Who will be in the first group?”

“Those who have received awards during the review of their study records probably won’t have any problem. Possibly you will be one.”

“No, I’m not good enough, but I’m sure you are.”

“Me? If I should go out first I’ll certainly send you some Peking delicacies. I really long to eat some Peking dates.”

From another side of the courtyard, I heard another’s voice: “If they want to release us they should release all at once, or not let anyone out.”

“Don’t you have any confidence in yourself?” someone answered him. “Are you afraid that you might be left behind?”

“Left behind? Unless they keep Pu Yi here they won’t keep me.”

What he said was really true. Even I felt he was right. On the following day the Deputy Chief asked me what I thought of the special pardon.

“I think that I am bound to be the very last one—that is, if I can ever remold myself. All the same, I shall try my best.”

For most of the prisoners the special pardon and release meant reunion with their families, but this did not apply to me. My mother had died long ago, my father had died in 1951 and my last wife had divorced me in 1956.

We became more enthusiastic in our studies and work, and many of us waited impatiently for the next assessment of our progress. The food-processing team now made bean curd that was both soft and white, the stock-breeding team fattened up their pigs so that they were finer than ever, and my own medical team stopped making mistakes.

More than a month passed. One evening the Deputy Chief asked me to come and see him to discuss the special pardon. “What have you been thinking during the past two months?” he asked me.

I told him that some of us seemed to have been remolded very well. I mentioned several who had received special commendations and also the food-processing and pig-breeding teams.

“It is much easier now for you to think of other people’s good points, isn’t it?” the Deputy Chief asked with a smile. “If the special pardon should include you, what would you think?”

“But this is impossible,” I replied.

Impossible! That was the thought I carried back with me to my cell. But if . . . if? Once this phrase came to my mind I suddenly became very tense. My hopes became greater and I couldn’t help but entertain some dreams. I imagined myself, Old Wan, Little Jui and others taking our place among real people and doing the same things that real people did. Perhaps I might be given a job as a medical assistant in a hospital by the Labor Department, just as had happened to others who had been remolded. But this would require a long period of time. At the thought of the happiness that might be in store for me I was almost unable to sleep.

On the following day, we were told to assemble. As we walked into the great hall I saw hanging across the stage a broad crimson cloth that took my breath away. On it was written: Special Pardon Meeting for the Fushun War Criminal Control Center.

A representative of the Supreme People’s Court, the two Center directors and others were sitting on the stage. Below, everyone was so quiet that I seemed to be able to hear my own heart beat.

After a few introductory words from the Center Chief, the representative of the Supreme People’s Court went to the center of the stage, took out a piece of paper and read, “Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi.”

My heart leapt. I walked toward the front of the stage and heard him read as follows:

Notice of a Special Pardon from the People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China

In accordance with the Special Pardon Order issued by the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China on September 17, 1959, this Court has investigated the case of the “Manchukuo war criminal” Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi.

The war criminal Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, male, 54 years old, of the Manchu nationality, and from Peking, has now served ten years’ detention. As a result of remolding through labor and ideological education during his captivity he has shown that he has genuinely reformed. In accordance with the stipulations of Clause I of the Special Pardon Order he is therefore to be released.



December 4, 1959

Before hearing the end of the pronouncement, I had already burst into tears.

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