Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, March 09, 2015

Rear guard actions

"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

It might sound trivial to outsiders, but it's serious business to Party authorities in China. What about the political culture helps explain this?

81-Year-Old Gets Suspended Sentence for Printing Fellow Mao Survivors’ Stories
An 81-year-old survivor of Mao’s purges was tried and convicted in southwestern China along with his assistant on Wednesday, with both receiving suspended sentences for publishing the memoirs of people who were persecuted nearly 60 years ago for criticizing the Communist Party.

Tie Liu
Tie Liu, the publisher, and Huang Jing, a domestic worker in Mr. Tie’s home in Beijing, were tried in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province…

Both defendants were convicted of operating an illegal business, Mr. Liu said. Mr. Tie received a suspended sentence of two and a half years with four years’ probation…

Ms. Huang, who in addition to her domestic work helped Mr. Tie with his publishing, was given a one-year sentence with one year’s probation…

Even with the relatively light sentences, the prosecution of Mr. Tie and Ms. Huang has underlined the party’s determination under President Xi Jinping to eradicate what the authorities deem to be corrosive criticisms of the Communist Party, including of its turbulent past.

Mr. Tie… publish[ed] “Small Scars From the Past,” a low-circulation journal that printed the recollections of people who, like Mr. Tie, were persecuted as “Rightists” in the 1950s…

The Rightists were students, scholars and other citizens who took up Mao Zedong’s call in 1956 to expose the shortcomings of the Communist Party. When Mao decided the criticisms had gone too far, he reversed course and started an anti-Rightist campaign against the same people who had answered his call. In 1957, when he was a journalist and aspiring author, Mr. Tie was denounced as a Rightist and spent nearly a quarter of a century in labor camps…

The Communist Party rigorously controls and censors accounts of its past, but Mr. Tie’s journal was circulated in Beijing, tolerated by the security police who kept an eye on his activities. That changed in September, when Mr. Tie was detained after publishing some scathing criticisms of party propaganda, including claims that the party’s ideology chief, Liu Yunshan…

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