Lin Zhao (first from right in the front row) in a group photo with Sunan New College students, taken at Shimen, Huishan, April 1950.

Lin Zhao in the Land Reform Working Group of the Suzhou Agricultural and Industrial Group, November 1951. At this time she believed that communism could be good, but soon, while studying at Peking University she changed her stance and fiercely attacked the communist government.

One of Lin Zhao’s letters written in her own blood in prison - so called “Blood letters”.

Lin Zhao

Lin Zhao, born Peng Lingzhao (1932-1968) She was born to a prominent family in Jiangsu Province in the Republic of China. At the age of 16, during the Civil War, as a member of an underground communist organisation, she began writing texts critical of the Nationalist government. At the same time, while attending school, Lin developed intense religious faith and converted to Christianity in the spirit of the Methodist Episcopal Church. As a young, committed communist, after Mao Zedong came to power, she was assigned to work in a group carrying out land reform in the name of the class struggle. During this time, young Lin showed great zeal in carrying out her duties and actively participated in the physical actions against landowners. However, already in the 1950s her thoughts about communism changed and while studying Chinese literature at Peking University, she became a famous dissident during the Hundred Flowers Campaign, which began under the aegis of Mao Zedong. The Chairman's grace was short-lived and the criticism did not end well for Lin Zhao and the other campaigners: everyone who entered into polemics with the Communist Party of China was punished, and Lin was relegated to work in the library or to kill mosquitoes as part of the Four Pests Campaign. She never stopped criticising the Party and in 1960, she was again detained and sentenced to 20 years in prison for helping to create an underground magazine criticising the Great Leap Forward policy. In prison, she was beaten and tortured, but she continued to commit her thoughts to paper. Lin Zhao was shot in 1968 in Shanghai, and her family was charged for the bullets that were used to kill her. Ironically, Lin Zhao's essays, diaries, and letters were only preserved because Communist Party officials thought they might later use these materials for propaganda purposes. The so-called "Blood letters" she wrote using her own blood became especially well-known. We are familiar with Lin Zhao's writings only because one of the policemen secretly gave them to her family after the Cultural Revolution. Otherwise her thoughts could never be known.