Those words recalled an era when a young Bo and other students wore spare blue-and-green clothes at No. 4, a collection of squat brick buildings near the walled Zhongnanhai compound where CCP leaders worked and often lived.
Another large group of students included children of intellectuals, professionals and engineers, some of whom had worked under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government before 1949.
“No. 4 was special among Beijing schools because of the number of cadre children, so the school students formed into two camps,” said Wang Zu’e, a former student and Red Guard at the No. 4 school who became a Beijing government official.
As Mao placed growing emphasis on ideological struggle and class into the mid-1960s, “children of senior cadres began to feel like they were different from the rest of us and began to enjoy more privileges and higher status,” said Yang Baikui, a former student at No. 4 whose father was a translator.
Nowadays the widespread impression of the Cultural Revolution is a convulsive revolt against all authority. Initially, however, its most fervent supporters in high schools were the children of officials, who saw Mao’s call as a test of their mettle, former No. 4 students and staff said.
“At the start, to become a Red Guard, you virtually had to have a red family background,” said Zhou Xiaozheng (周孝正), a former No. 4 student who is now a professor of sociology at Renmin University in Beijing.
At the school from June 1966, fervent students turned on teachers and the principal, accusing them of hiding “bad” and “reactionary” class backgrounds and failing to heed Mao’s demands.
They searched homes and patrolled the streets, forcing youths to get rid of John F. Kennedy-style haircuts, sharp shoes, denim trousers and other signs of deviance, Yin said.
The sense among officials’ children that they boasted proud revolutionary pedigrees — and futures — passed from their fathers inspired a slogan that spread among the children of officials at No. 4 and other high schools.
“If the father is a hero, the son is a real man. If the father is a reactionary, the son is a bastard,” ran the slogan painted on a wall at the No. 4 school, former students said.
On Aug. 4, 1966, students paraded the 20 or so teachers around the school sports ground, the victims’ heads bowed and weighed down with high “witch” hats and placards that declared them to be “cow-ghosts and snake-demons” — the phrase used to describe people deemed beyond the revolutionary pale.
“Their clothes were spattered with ink, and their faces showed scars from beatings,” Duan wrote.
In the middle of this uproar, Bo Xilai was a shy, gangly boy squeezed between two lively brothers, schoolmates recalled. His older brother, Bo Xiyong (薄熙永), was a star athlete who became a deputy head of the school’s Cultural Revolution committee. His younger brother, Bo Xicheng (薄熙成), was a boisterous junior secondary student.
Bo Xilai “was the shy one among the Bo family boys,” said Yang Fan, who later kept in touch with Bo’s brothers. “His face would go red when he spoke.”
“He was there as an old Red Guard, but he followed others, including his big brother,” a former official who grew up as a near neighbor to Bo’s home said on condition of anonymity.