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25-01-1981

Mao's widow sentenced to death

Jiang Qing, the widow of Chinese leader Mao Zedong, is sentenced to death for her "counter-revolutionary crimes" during the Cultural Revolution. Her marriage to Mao in 1939 was widely criticized, as his second wife, Ho Zizhen, was a celebrated veteran of the Long March who Mao had divorced while she lay languishing in a Moscow hospital. In 1966, Mao made her first deputy head of the Cultural Revolution and gave her far-reaching powers over China's intellectual and cultural life. The Cultural Revolution was Mao's attempt to revolutionize Chinese society, and Jiang proved adept at manipulating the media and the young radicals known as the Red Guards. The movement was characterized by terror and purges in which tens of thousands were killed and millions suffered. In the late 1960s, the Cultural Revolution waned, and Jiang faded from the public eye. However, after her husband's death in 1976, she was arrested and three years later, put on trial. Jiang was found guilty and sentenced to die. On January 25, 1983, exactly two years after she was condemned, the Chinese government commuted her sentence to life imprisonment. In 1991, she died in prison of an apparent suicide.