1971 plot for land and air attack on Mao's train disclosed


PEKING -- China today said six followers of former Defense Minister Lin Biao have been indicted for plotting to assassinate Mao Tse-tung by attacking his train and seize control of the country in the ensuing chaos.

If that plan failed, the plotters had a fallback plan to capture Peking with military help from the Soviet Union by launching a massive pincer attack from the north and south, said excepts from a trial indictment released by the government.


The plot misfired when the late chairman sensed the impending coup, the indictment said. The principal plotter, Mao's heir-apparent and longtime ally, Defense Minister Lin Biao, tried to escape but was killed when his getaway aircraft crashed in Mongolia en route to the Soviet Union, it said.

In an unusual move, China has been releasing parts of the book-long indictment against 10 defendants each day since Saturday and promised a final installment Tuesday before the long awaited trial itself begins _ probably later this week.


The plot to assassinate Mao did not involve Mao's widow Jiang Qing and her colleagues in the so-called Gang of Four, though they are to be tried at the same time as Lin's six followers.

The six were Chen Boda, Mao's political secretary and leading interpreter and five high ranking military officials' former Army Chief of the General Staff Huang Yongsheng, Air Force Commander Wu Faxian, Deputy Navy Commander Li Zuopeng, logistics expert Qiu Huizuo and Air Force political commissar Jiang Tengjiao.

Some details of the plot to overthrow Mao have surfaced in the past but the indictment gave the most comprehensive account of the climax of the power struggle in China in the early 1970s.

Lin actively began to plan the Chairman's assassination after he failed to gain supreme power through the Communist Party in 1970, the indictment said.

The assassination was planned for September 1971, when Mao made an inspection tour of south China. As the day approached, Lin Biao reputedly sent a hand-written note on the assassination _ Project 571 _ to an assassination squad known as the 'joint fleet.'

The indictment said the killers planned to attack Mao's train 'with flame thowers and bazookas and bomb and dynamite a railroad bridge.'


Dive bombers simultaneously would destroy the train from the air.

In one alternative plan, the assassination squad was to blow up an oil storage dump in Shanghai near Mao's train and then kill the chairman. In yet another, a trusted aide was to kill Mao as he stood in a receiving line in the bustling seaport.

In the event that all those plots were aborted, a fallback plan was devised to 'launch a pincer attack from the north and the south with the help of the Soviet Union' against Peking.

Lin hid at the north China coastal resort of Beidaihe with eight special aircraft at his disposal, but as reports of the plot began reaching Mao, he fled in 'special plane 256 just after midnight on Sept. 13, 1971.'

The indictment said his aircraft crashed near Undur Khan in Mongolia as he tried to flee to Russia. Some historians have disputed that and believe Lin may have been murdered at Beidaihe.

Earlier, Mao's widow and other defendants were charged with killing 34,000 people and persecuting another half million citizens on trumped up charges.

In the most far reaching case of abuse of power, the indictment said the late secret police chief Kang Sheng and Security Chief Xie Fuzhi framed and persecuted 346,000 people and drove 16,222 others to death in the 1960s.


Details of similiar massive purges in Yunnan and Hebei Provinces and the armed forces also were disclosed.

A special court is to hear 48 separate offenses lodged against the Gang and Lin followers. Sentencing is expected be under the 1980 criminal law that provides the death penalty. The trial could last up to the end of the year.

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