On New Year’s Eve of that year, he attended the Orientation Gala of the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics: To his utter shock and horror, during the party, he was met with intolerable insults and humiliation. Amid the gloating laughter of the guests, the host announced loudly: “The live show, Exposing the Foreign Doctor, has begun!”
With the sound of a small gong, the curtain opened and a clown made in the image of Xiao’s likeness appeared on stage. The clown said: “I am Dr. Xiao. I relied on my parents’ money to commit crimes to become a doctor in the United States. I heard that the Communist Party is in power in China. I will steal some valuable information and get to China to get a job…”
Xiao was stunned! He felt as though he could not show his face. Everyone knew that the clown was referring to him, a meek and humble scholar who had no way to retaliate to the insults. He could only helplessly mutter to himself: “It’s not good, it’s so bad to make fun of people, it’s not good.”
Xiao’s dignity was severely crushed. He did not say a word. The humiliation left him with severe insomnia thereafter. However, Xiao was very patriotic and loyal and still deeply loved his country, and he continued to do whatever he could for it with resolve.
In 1961, Xiao took the initiative to serve as a researcher at the Qingdao Institute of Oceanology and he proposed a research topic on biocatalysis. At that time, the subject was not very advanced in China or in Western countries. In the 1990s, foreign countries started biocatalysis research and did not put it into any practical application until the 21st century. However, because of Xiao’s research and contributions, China began research in this area 30 years earlier than the West.
In 1964, when China’s Daqing Oilfield encountered difficulties in producing aviation kerosene and low-pour point diesel, Xiao created a catalyst with a high conversion rate, solving the problem completely.
As Xiao made more and more contributions, he became the founder of China’s petrochemical industry. Unfortunately, the good times did not last long and catastrophe was about to fall, not only upon himself, but upon his family as well. During the Cultural Revolution, like countless other intellectuals in China, Xiao became a helpless target.
The Chinese Communist Party accused Xiao of conspiring with a foreign power and of being a secret agent. It got much worse: Several households, in turn, moved into their home in order to monitor, humiliate, and intimidate them. Every time Xiao’s family returned home, they were scolded on the street; they could not even enter their own kitchen, let alone eat hot soup or rice. These people were crowded into the kitchen and did not allow Xiao’s family to cook.
They survived on just water and biscuits. Initially, Xiao could bear it as at least he could go home every day. His daughter, Xiao Luoluo, was born in China and was only 14 years old at the time. She was a smart girl since childhood. In elementary school, she could assemble a semiconductor radio by herself. She herself came under enormous pressure as she would witness people denouncing, harassing, and scolding her parents, causing all of them to live a painful and lonely life. The family persisted year by year and comforted each other to survive.
On October 5, 1968, the Institute of Chemical Physics sent over 20 fully armed thugs from the Work Propaganda Team to Xiao’s house. They grabbed Xiao, threw him into a cowpen, ransacked his house, and stole all his valuables.
Afterward, Xiao faced endless interrogations. “Xiao Guangyan, you earned so much money and lived so well in the United States — why did you come back? If you can get American data to China, you can definitely smuggle Chinese data to the U.S. You must honestly confess how much intelligence you have collected for the U.S. imperialists.”
Obviously, there was no way Xiao could convince them of his innocence and patriotism or explain himself to these people, so these villains beat him viciously, used torture equipment on him, and called him “white trash.”
The doctor was overwhelmed by all the curses and expletives they heaped on him. They tortured Xiao into writing 26 statements of repentance. When returning home to see his wife and daughter, Xiao would regain his courage to live and continue to survive. But now, he could not see them anymore. In the beginning, Xiao still held a glimmer of hope. Later, he became desperate as his hope dissipated. Xiao was black and blue all over his body, he felt he had lost everything, and there seemed to be no way out of this endless ordeal.
It was almost 20 years since Xiao returned to serve his country. It was beyond his darkest expectation to encounter such treatment. Could it be, he thought, that he had not properly expressed his sincere patriotism in these two decades? He could not understand this absurd world. It was hard to tell whether his face was full of blood or tears. His strong gaze became empty, as though he had accepted his fate. In order to not implicate his wife and child, Xiao made up his mind to draw a line between his beloved wife and daughter forever.
On December 11, 1968, Xiao never got up again to face this cruel world. After being tortured for more than 60 days, he took his own life by overdosing on sleeping pills. He was only 48 years old. He thought that his departure could bring a ray of light and relief to his wife and daughter.
There was no let-up. Xiao’s sad departure only served to deal a final, fatal blow to his wife and daughter. In the afternoon, his wife Zhen was arrested and told: “Counter-revolutionary spy Xiao Guangyan committed suicide in fear of his crimes. He was involved in conspiring with the enemy. You must continue to confess.”
They treated her inhumanely during the process of her confession. She did not shed a tear. After the vicious process, upon leaving, she took one last glance at her husband’s body.
After that, she asked the organization to allow her to take two days off to take care of her child. Surprisingly, her request was approved and she returned home that day. On December 13, there was no movement in Xiao’s house, and no one answered the knocking at the door. Someone felt concerned, pried open the door, and saw Zhen and her daughter lying on the double bed under the quilt. The mother hugged her darling daughter tightly — they had stopped breathing a long time ago. With the cold, dark persecution, they finally fell into despair and hopelessness, took an overdose of sleeping pills, and went with Xiao.
After Xiao’s death, all of Xiao’s photos were destroyed, and the whereabouts of Xiao’s ashes are still unknown.
Let the cruel fate of this honorable and patriotic man and his beloved wife and daughter serve as a stark warning to the world of the unchangeable, evil nature of the Chinese Communist Party. Collaborating with the Chinese Communist Party, no matter how well-intended or innocent, inevitably ends in tears and tragedy.
See Part 1 here.
Translated by Joseph Wu and edited by Helen