The number of casualties caused by widespread famine and policies of the Communist Party was between 15 and 40 million people. In some cases, local cadres made all sorts of abuse on unarmed people. There are widespread oral reports, and some official documentation, of cannibalism being practiced in various forms, as a result of the famine.
But what happened in Lixian County, Hunan, once renowned to be a land of abundance, is emblematic. The policy of terror implemented by local authorities impoverished the population. Liujia, a farmer always lived in humility, enlisted by force in the KMT in 1948 and shortly afterwards captured by communist forces, is a case in point. In 1950, Liu was released and he returned home. Here he tried to start a normal life with his family. But a few years later the policies implemented by the local commune forced him, as well as many other inhabitants of the area to a desperate life. Local inhabitants were not allowed to access the Dongting Lake, so people had to furtively reach the waters to catch some fishes and avoid starvation. However, one day Liu was beaten by local officials for theft and was forced to give all his stocks of food to the authorities. The following winter, the family had to live on. The children in the village were crying from hunger throughout the day. Soon many children and local residents had attacks of insanity and hallucinations. Liu Jia, in its reports to the police, told of children who moved like pigs, dreaming with open eyes to eat cups of rice. At night, watching his baby sleeping restless and hungry, Liu collapsed. He took a knife and killed him. Then he dismembered the body and cooked him with some carrots preserved. The next day the neighbours, suspicious by sudden silence, looked into the house. What they saw was a terrifying sight: served on top of an improvised oven made of bricks, there was a pot with the head, arms and legs of the mutilated child. Liujia was arrested and he confessed his crimes. He claimed he had killed the child as an act of mercy.
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