China octogenarian on trial for four decade-old murder

BEIJING (AFP) - A man in his eighties has gone on trial in a Chinese court for a murder he allegedly committed during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution over four decades ago, state media reported on Wednesday.

A court in the eastern province of Zhejiang this week tried the man for the 1967 murder of a doctor suspected of being a spy, the state-run China News Service reported.

It said the defendant surnamed Qiu is accused of strangling his victim, surnamed Hong, with a rope before cutting off his legs and burying him.

Qiu was a member of a member of "an armed group" during the decade of upheaval known as the Cultural Revolution, the report said, adding that he was arrested last July.

The Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966 by then-leader Mao Zedong, who called on ordinary citizens to struggle against the privileged, resulting in attacks on government officials, intellectuals and other groups.

The period, which still stirs emotions in China, saw young people form "Red Guard" units which engaged in mass violence, destroyed cultural relics and sometimes obtained weapons.

China has never publicly estimated how many died during the period, which saw citizens turn on their neighbours. Half a million died in 1967 alone, according to British historian Roderick MacFarquhar.

The verdict in the trial is yet to be announced.