Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Official version of history

Remember what George Orwell said about history in his book 1984: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

The Communist Party in China is intent on controlling the past.

China criminalizes the slander of its ‘heroes and martyrs,’ as it seeks to control history
China’s Communist Party has always understood the importance of policing its history.

On Friday, it tightened the screws further with a new law banning the slander of “heroes and martyrs” — figures drawn from wartime propaganda said to have given their lives in defense of the Communist Party or the nation.

Lei Feng
Chinese schoolchildren are taught about the heroic deeds of figures who fought against the Japanese during World War II, or who gave their lives for the Communist Party in the civil war with the Nationalists. Memorials to some of the most famous dot the country.

Now, it will be illegal to suggest that those tales might not be wholly factual…

(See Fact-Checking a Chinese Hero)

The law is part of a much broader and long-standing attempt by the Communist Party to mold or rewrite history in its interests. It has obfuscated the causes and extent of the famine that killed tens of millions of people during the disastrous Great Leap Forward that began in 1958, as well as the chaos of the Cultural Revolution that followed. It has made a determined attempt to erase from history the 1989 pro-democracy movement and the subsequent deaths of many demonstrators.

The “Heroes and Martyrs Protection Act” was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, and goes into effect May 1. It threatens unspecified “administrative penalties” or even “criminal sanctions” against those who damage memorials or “insult or slander heroes and martyrs.”…

Historian and critic Zhang Lifan, for his part, maintained that the law was largely meant to emphasize and protect the legitimacy of the Communist Party and to tie up the idea of “loving the country” with “loving the party.”

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