Zhang Zhixin (Chinese: 张志新; Wade–Giles: Chang Chih-hsin; December 5, 1930 – April 4, 1975) was a dissident during the Cultural Revolution who became famous for criticizing the idolization of Mao Zedong and the ultra-left. She was imprisoned for six years (1969 to 1975) and tortured, then executed, for having opposing views while being a member of the Communist Party of China. A second party member who had expressed agreement with Zhang was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
She did not consider herself anti-communist, but rather a "true Marxist" for whom Mao had distorted the communist cause. Even in prison, she insisted she was a member of the Communist Party of China. Many of her points of view were similar to those of the Communist leaders who succeeded Mao. For this reason, she was rehabilitated by Hu Yaobang and recognized as a revolutionary martyr, a model communist.
Zhang Zhixin was born in Tianjin in 1930. She was educated in Renmin University of China from 1951 to 1952 and later worked in this university. Zhang later became a member of the Communist Party Propaganda Department at Liaoning province.
- Zhang expressed her view:
|“||I have doubts about Jiang Qing (Mao's wife and prominent figure of the Leadership of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution). What's wrong with making critical remarks about her? Why shouldn't Jiang Qing's problems be revealed? We should even expose the Central Cultural Revolution Group.... Why should we go along with the notion that even if you do not understand, you must obey? If this is allowed to continue, the situation will get out of control. This is all an effort to fortify Chairman Mao's reputation and that of Lin Biao. I personally have no trust in Lin Biao.||”|
Imprisonment and torture
In 1969, she was imprisoned in a tiny cell for her critical comments toward Mao. She saved up 2 yuan a month to purchase books to read in the facility, where she wrote her study notes on toilet paper. The prison guards then took her pen away. She proclaimed that the party would be "punished by history; if not sooner, than later". For a year and a half she was frequently shackled in leg irons and tied in a harness.
The party forced her to sign divorce papers. Confined in an all-male prison, she was raped and tortured. Other male prisoners were told they could reduce their sentences if they were willing to torture Zhang.
In a prison political educational meeting called to criticize Lin Biao, she shouted that Mao should be responsible for what Lin did. A party secretary from Liaoning Province urged that she be executed quickly. During the Cultural Revolution, most legal procedures were abolished: without judges or trials, cases were decided by various levels of the Revolutionary Committees and Communist Party committees.
Death and posthumous rehabilitation
Zhang was paraded and executed on April 4, 1975, close to the end of the Cultural Revolution. It is reported that her larynx was slit before the execution, in order to prevent her from speaking. 
Four years after her execution, in the spring of 1979 she was officially proclaimed a 'martyr'; April 4, 1979 was designated the day of her memorial. Although an investigation was begun into her case, party leader Hu Yaobang had it stopped.
In People's Park in central Guangzhou, a statue named Mengshi (The Brave) has been raised to commemorate Zhang Zhixin. The statue depicts a nude female warrior shooting an arrow on horseback, and the inscription on its pedestal reads "dedicated to people who struggle for truth".
- Censorship in the People's Republic of China
- Jonathan Chaves, "A Devout Prayer of the Passion of Chang Chih-hsin," Modern Chinese Literature Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring 1980), pp. 8–24.
- R. Randle Edwards, Human Rights in Contemporary China, 193 pp. 1986, 1988: Columbia Univ. Press. (ISBN 0231061811)
- Ladany, László. The Communist Party of China and Marxism, 1921-1985: A Self Portrait. 1988: Stanford University, Hoover Institution Press. (ISBN 0817986219)
- Zheng, Yi. Scarlet Memorial: Tales Of Cannibalism In Modern China. 1997: Westview Press. (ISBN 0813326168)
- 人民公园：广州第一公园 [People's Park: the first park in Guangzhou] (in Chinese). Guangzhou Daily. February 17, 2008. Retrieved April 24, 2014.