October 13 - 19, 2019: Issue 424
CHAIRMAN MAO’S PERSONAL PHYSICIAN
CHAIRMAN MAO’S PERSONAL PHYSICIAN
By George Repin
Dr Zhisui Li, Chairman Mao’s personal physician from 1954 to Mao’s death in 1976, was educated at West China Union University Medical School and Peking Union Medical College, both of which were American-run, with American professors and Rockefeller funded.
For a time in 1948 he practised medicine in Sydney and as a ship’s surgeon on trans-Tasman vessels, earning much more than he could in China, but realised that he could not achieve his ambition to be a neurosurgeon under the then White Australia Policy.
When it became apparent that the Communists would gain power his brother, also a doctor, and his mother induced him to return to China. Before long, however, he was disillusioned by what he saw around him.
Through the influence of his brother, who had been a communist since the mid-1930s, Dr Li was assigned to the Zhongnanhai Clinic, a special clinic set up to treat China’s top leaders. In 1954 his life changed, irrevocably, when his western medical training proved to be a factor in his appointment as the Chairman’s personal physician. His reservations about accepting the appointment were brushed aside when it was made clear to him “there is no room for reconsideration”. He did not meet Mao until 25 April 1955 but ultimately was constantly at his side – and at his beck and call. His 663 page book, The Private Life of Chairman Maopaints an extraordinarily intimate portrait of Mao – his habits, personal behaviour and life style generally.
Following Mao’s death there were recriminations, including a suggestion that the medical team, of which Dr Li had been the leader, was culpable. He was sent to Jiangxi for “re-education” with hard labor for a year, but in 1979 he was appointed Vice-President of the Chinese Medical Association. (The Chinese Medical Association is an organ of government whose President is the Health Minister).
Left: Dr Li and Chairman Mao, Wuhan, July 1966
It was in this capacity that he contacted the Secretary General of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) to send a group of appropriate doctors to visit Chinese hospitals and other health facilities in his country. His aim was that the team should see the problems and continuing needs resulting from China being cut off from developments in Western medicine during the Cultural Revolution. The AMA would then be able to facilitate the establishment of networks with relevant institutions in Australia. The team travelled extensively in China for three weeks in 1984.
In the following year Dr Li lead a delegation from China to Australia, as guests of the AMA. The delegation visited State Branches of the AMA, hospitals, private practices and government departments in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
Right: Dr Zhisui Li, Dr George Repin and Dr Trevor Pickering (President of AMA) Marigold Restaurant, Sydney - September 1985
In Canberra the Secretary General of the AMA accompanied Dr Li to a meeting with the Minister for Health Dr Neal Blewett.
Things did not finish happily for Dr Li. He and his wife Lillian moved to the USA in 1988 to join their two sons and their wives. Lillian died in 1989. In 1992 his home in China was confiscated. His book, with its devastating account of Mao’s “court” was published in 1994.
Dr Li wrote “I have paid for this book with my life. My dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon never came to pass, and my hopes for a new China were dashed. My family life was destroyed.”
“I devoted my professional life to Mao and China, but now I am stateless and homeless, unwelcome in my own country.”
“I want (this book) to serve as a reminder of the terrible human consequences of Mao’s dictatorship and of how good and talented people living under his regime were forced to violate their consciences and sacrifice their ideals in order to survive.”
Copyright George Repin 2013. All Rights Reserved.
Previous Reflections by George Repin
The Nineteen Thirties Remembering Rowe Street The Sydney Push Saturday Night at the Movies Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram A Stop On The Road To Canberra City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s Hill End The Paragon at Katoomba Seafood In Sydney How Far From Sydney? Cockatoo Island Over The Years The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991 Busby's Bore The Trocadero In Sydney Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection Gloucester and the Barrington Tops A Millenium Apart Have You Stopped to Look? Gulgong Il Porcellino Olympia Durham Hall Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia Hotels at Bondi Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone The Goroka Show - 1958 A Gem On The Quay Staffa The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls The Coal Mine At Balmain The Hyde Park Barracks The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955 King Island Kelp The Mercury Theatre Around Angkor - 1963 Angkor Wat 1963 Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli Chairman Mao's Personal Physician The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic Museum in Monaco The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi Pula The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park Aphrodisias The Divine Comedy Caodaism Sapa and local Hill People A Few Children Cappadocia Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual Kotor, Montenegro Galleries of Photographs I Lascaux Galleries of Photographs II The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia Ivan Meštrović - Sculptor Delphi Gallery of Photographs III The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point San Simeon - "Hearst Castle" Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982 Russian New Year Mycenae "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska The White Pass and Yukon Route Totem Poles Tivkin Cemetery Krka National Park - Croatia Tavistock Square and the BMA Orthodox Easter Wieliczka Salt Mine A Walk on Santorini Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958 A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist Kraków Lilianfels Collonges-La-Rouge Gingerbread Houses Cape Sounion Delos Wroclaw Colonial Williamsburg Gruyères Strasbourg Coventry Cathedral The Roman Theatre at Aspendos Turkish Carpets The Duomo of Orvieto Rovinj The City Walls of Dubrovnik Monaco - Snapshots Bonifacio, Corsica Autumn in New England USA The Great Ocean Road Pompeii Didyma Lawrence Hargrave 1850-1915 The Corinth Canal Malta Snapshots of Amsterdam Café Central - Vienna The Forbidden City - Beijing, China A Ride on the Jungfrau Railway - 1954 Snapshots in the Highlands of Scotland 1954 Must See Sights in Paris - 1954 Corfu Reflections On the Nineteen Thirties The Gold Souk in Dubai Stromboli Ha Long Bay - Vietnam Lake Argyle The Bungle Bungle Range Langgi Inlet, W.A. White Cliffs, NSW - 1990 Sturt National Park - May, 1990 A Few Statues and Water Spouts The Dodecanese Archipelago Rhodes Lindos The Church on Spilled Blood - 2005 Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Repin's In "Ladies In Black" Signs of the Times at Sydney Museum: Repin Inns
Copyright George Repin 2019. All Rights Reserved.