Beijing - China's internet users cried foul on Thursday over the trial of an elderly man for an alleged murder decades ago during the political and social upheaval of the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong.
China has never publicly estimated how many died in the decade-long period, during which people turned on their neighbours. Half a million died in 1967 alone, according to British historian Roderick MacFarquhar.
"The biggest murderer in the Cultural Revolution has no responsibility, while a common murderer is held accountable decades later," attorney Liu Xiaoyuan wrote on his Twitter-like weibo microblog.
The state-run China News Service reported on Wednesday that a man in his eighties had gone on trial in the eastern province of Zhejiang this week for the 1967 murder of a doctor suspected of being a spy.
Defendent’s advanced age
The defendant, surnamed Qiu, was accused of strangling his victim with a rope before cutting off his legs and burying him.
Qiu was a member of "an armed group" during the decade of upheaval known as the Cultural Revolution, the report said, adding that he was arrested last July.
Another weibo user called Qiu a "pawn", adding: "You don't dare punish" people who should be held accountable such as senior officials.
A woman surnamed Zheng at the People's Court in the Zhejiang city of Ruian, told AFP on Thursday that the trial had been completed and a verdict could come in the next few days.
"There is a high chance we will give him a suspended sentence," she said, citing the defendant's advanced age.
Moa’s Cultural Revolution
The Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966 by Mao, who called on ordinary citizens to struggle against the privileged, resulting in attacks on government officials, intellectuals and other groups.
Memories of the episode remain raw in China, and a full historical accounting has never been released by the country's communist authorities.
"There are so many people who died in the Cultural Revolution," wrote another Internet user on Wednesday. "Wasn't that stirred up by a certain party?"
"What are you doing?” the user continued. "Intend to show how efficient your work is? Or how impartial you are when you enforce the law? It is just a show!"