Wang Shiwei Documentary available on YouTube

29th Mar 2017

Wang Shiwei (1907-47) was a writer and translator. He is best known in China today as the author (in 1942) of “Wild Lily”, an essay supportive but critical of China’s wartime Communist Party, for which he worked as a writer in Yan’an, the Chinese Communists’ capital in the Anti-Japanese War. Wang Shiwei, though not himself an out-and-out Trotskyist, had strong personal ties to Wang Fanxi and other Chinese Trotskyists, and translated Lenin’s Testament for them. Writing “Wild Lily”, which criticised inequality, authoritarianism, and lack of “love and humanity” in the wartime Communist movement, led to his arrest and imprisonment. He was sent to work in a matchbox factory in Yan’an. He refused to recant, and continued to insist that Wang Fanxi was a “Communist of humanity.” During the evacuation of Yan’an in 1947, in the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Shiwei was hacked to death with a sword on a river bank near Yan’an, an execution of which Mao Zedong is said to have disapproved. Since the start of People’s China in 1949, “Wild Lily” has featured in every movement of dissent, in part because the Maoists liked to brandish it at critics as “negative study material” with which to frighten them, so it was nearly always available. This film about Wang Shiwei was made for Hong Kong TV by the radical filmmaker and academic Louisa Wei, an admirer of the Chinese Trotskyists. Her next film is about Wang Fanxi.