Editor’s Note: Yu Xiangzhen is a retired editor and was a middle school student when the Cultural Revolution began 50 years ago in May 1966. What follows is her story, as told to CNN’s Shen Lu, translated into English and edited for length and clarity.
Yu Xiangzhen was a Red Guard during China's Cultural Revolution, which started 50 years ago
They were a proxy army of children and young adults that violently struck out at anyone not toeing Mao's line
She lives in guilt after denouncing her homeroom teacher
I have lived a life haunted by guilt.
In 1966, I was one of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Red Guards. Myself and millions of other middle and high school students started denouncing our teachers, friends, families and raiding homes and destroying other people’s possessions.
Textbooks explain the Cultural Revolution – in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions more abused and traumatized – as a political movement started and led by Mao “by mistake,” but in reality it was a massive catastrophe for which we all bear responsibility.