A Grim Chapter in History Kept Closed
While the Cultural Revolution is not a taboo subject per se, to this day research and writings are strictly controlled. One or two individuals have opened private museums, such as Peng Qian, in the southern city of Shantou, where he was formerly deputy mayor. The content is carefully calibrated. Ms. Wang says the government has identified only senior officials who were killed, plus a few “celebrities,” while ordinary people are ignored. She finds that deeply offensive. “It should be all about the victims,” she said.
The government has conceded that Mao committed “errors,” but his reputation in China is still officially sacred. Wary of challenges to the man whose body lies on display in Tiananmen Square, publishers of writings about the era submit to a three-tier censorship process: at the government’s General Administration of Press and Publication, the Party History Research Office and the Party Literature Research Office, according to Ding Dong, a historian.
Since the mid-1990s, “very little has been published about the Cultural Revolution, and even less of any significance,” Mr. Ding recently told an audience at Sanwei Bookstore in Beijing.
As time passes, historians increasingly worry about how to preserve the truth, with people dying before they can tell their stories.