China Bars Celebrated Author From Traveling To U.S. To Receive Prominent Harvard Prize

220px-YangJisheng130px-Mao_Zedong_portraitChina is again showing that it remains an authoritarian government fearful of its own people learning the truths of history or politics. This week, China barred Yang Jisheng, 76, a former journalist with China’s official news agency, from traveling to the United States to accept a Harvard University prize for Tombstone, a 2008 book uncovering the devastating toll of the Great Chinese Famine of 1958-1961.

The 1,200-page account of the famine details the death at least 36 million Chinese lives in one of the worst man-made disasters. He also details the efforts by the government to cover up the famine’s causes and costs. Yang’s writings have caused him to be targeted by party members to leave his job.

Yang began his career as a committed communist party member. He was born nine years before Chairman Mao’s takeover of power and became a Communist party member in 1964. He graduating from Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University in 1966 and went to work at Xinhua where he worked until his retirement in 2001. However, he then began to journey across China and saw the tragedy brought about by Mao’s Great Leap Forward. He became more critical after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. He began to collect an extensive record of the famine which has been called China’s hidden Holocaust.

It is an extraordinary life’s story showing how an intellectual overcame years of indoctrination to discover the truth. Yang is dangerous precisely because he not only published the truth about the famine but personifies the powerful desire among people to find the truth. For an authoritarian regime, Yang personifies their greatest fear: an inquisitive and courageous populous. Of course, this petty measure will not stop Yang or his work. It merely confirms that the excesses of the Maoist period continue with the current regime.

16 thoughts on “China Bars Celebrated Author From Traveling To U.S. To Receive Prominent Harvard Prize”

  1. Sold out by Cronkite and Congress? There are still those who believe the US and the RVN–that massively popular government installed with the help of the CIA–would have won “if only”? Really sad to see how little insight, even in hindsight, such folks gain over the years and how much they still want to fight and refight that war that the RVN and US would never have won.

    1. Imadork,
      You are aware of the Post-Tet evaluation by the North are you not? Ahh, maybe not. The VC were clocked out and Giap publicly acknowledged that fact and clearly stated that with Cronkite’s misstatement re. the famous pistol shot caught by the photographer in 1968 was the unraveling of American resolve.


      Please read the whole article all the way down to the photographer’s regret.

      And Fullbright Hearings in 1965 which gave a history. Admittedly, we were nowhere innocent in the conduct, but once in (courtesy of Kennedy and Johnson) there was hope for the ones who absolutely dreaded the North…and they were right to do so.

      This isn’t the “if only” you would suggest. By the way, I served in-country on the rivers (up close and personal) and knew the people in communities. Read the accounts of Chau Duc just southeast of Cambodia on the Mekong and Nam Cam (Solid Anchor) 1970. – 1971

      Should note that 100s of thousands went south at the partition. Only hundreds went north.

  2. Renegade: Back in the days. The Nam days. Did you guys refer to the enemy as Commies or employ some other word. I recall one name that was used a lot which is now sort of against civility rules. G____ or some such.
    I was in Hong Kong around 1980. This was long before the Brits gave it over to the Commies. It seemed somewhat free and civilized. Recently it looks like things are going South. Oh, sorry, going South is a slur. Going Mao.
    But when I was there I was not here. Dave’s not here man.
    I am really not Dave. My real name is Cheech. When in Hong Kong I was with Chong.

    1. Yeah…but today I kind of wondered if even “Commies” would be recognized. Besides, Commies differentiates the cause. The RVNs were a proud amalgum of people who were sold out by Cronkite (48 yrs ago at Tet) and our Congress. I wept knowing good friends including toddlers didn’t survive the purges.

  3. The republicans were the party of plutocracy at the time of the Civil war. They still are. The bad news is that now the democrats are the party of plutocracy too. People see this and that’s why they vote for Donald or Bernie. Unfortunately neither candidate were he elected, will have much of a chance against the oligarchs.

  4. China bad bad. Naughty. But China obviously is still a sovereign country. They have no illusions about our concept of “Freedom of the press” which has become a tool of control as much as censorship.

    Our “Free press” is a joke. It’s controlled by the plutocracy. Sometimes I think that is worse. What is worse, social chaos, which always puts the rich in charge? Or democracy which gives the people a chance? We should question our premises about the over-lauded shibboleth “freedom” once in a while instead of treating it like some false idol that requires us all to burn incense.

  5. MK is not a bad book. Some parts are kind of wordy, but some parts really flow. You could buy MK in any mall when I was growing up and tons of people did. MK was a best seller in America before the war too. I still see copies at used bookstores. People need to quit wetting the bed over MK.

  6. China should just follow Obama’s lead Re. perceived dissidents: Create a Chinese Presidential “Kill List,” and drone kill them, while walking on foreign soil, even the USSA. Even 16 year old Chinese deserve such fate, at least Obama thinks so. (See American Anwar Al Awlaki and his American sixteen year old son by the same name.)

    If the Chinese “accidentally” hit a few American wedding parties, that’s the price Americans must pay for China’s national security. If the Chinese accidentally kill a few dozen Harvardites, that the price of freedom!

    China should bomb the USA till we love them. Exactly like we do to the rest of the planet!

    In the words of Obama, if Americans don’t like it, they can “sue” the Chinese.

    Onward soldiers USSA!

    /sarc off

    1. Joseph Jones – Obama is a putz as commander-in-chief, but if Trump should win and I were the Chinese using drones to kill people on American soil, I would be living in a bunker. Trump knows how to say “You’re fired!!!”

  7. The famine worked well to get the population down. Now they advocate cigarette smoking at age 5 onward. A war will probably be the next method.

  8. Most great nations had their Maos. The US had a succession of them called Presidents. Genocide, slavery, etc. was not all that long ago. The US has a lot to be proud of in evolving away from the truths that allowed these crimes, and a long way to go. The best way to move forward is to take a peek at the past from time to time. An historical interlude should be de rigeur in the Congress and Senate.

  9. Wow Dave,
    You could take a lesson from this courageous man and get out and discover the real story of our American history. I could care less what party you support or how much you might loathe the GOP but for God’s sake, independently verify what you believe is true BEFORE you let everyone know how much you DON”T know. The dead giveaway is laying the nation’s ills on one political party. Political parties love it when their base just believes without verifying. Makes a good foundation upon which to build a movement.

  10. 6 book sellers disappear in China, one finally reappears and tearfully confesses his crimes against the state. Now this. They know Mao was a monster. They just do not want anyone else to know. No one in China talks of the Cultural Revolution, it was like no one was alive at that time.

  11. I remember the times when the various ships I served on would pull into Hong Kong for R&R after killing Commies in Vietnam. (Let’s see what rises from this last statement, shall we?)

    Anyway, every time we pulled in we had to make sure all deck mounted weapons were stowed in “parade” position. God help you if a Gunnersmate happened to rotate or elevate the mount for maintenance. In fact external access to work internally had to be camouflaged.nEven though H. K. was a British Crown Colony, and we were moored just off the British Naval Station, a ship could get kicked out by Red China.

    So given all that HASN’T happened in mainland China since those days, why would anyone be surprised by current repression?

    A world renowned expert on Far East history made an observation that the China regimes (Dynasties through to the current) only last until the peasants revolt. It’s not the intelligentsia that brings down a regime in China. The survival of the powerful is absolutely reliant on full control of the peasant. Another correlative observation was that revolution only happens when the peasant populace starts to develop “hope.” Mao was not part of the intelligentsia but was a master at control, a dispenser of hope in desperate times, in much the same manner as Stalin and Hitler. None of them were academic masters either. Ever really try to read “My Struggle” or the Little Red Book?

    (No, this is not an expression of esteem. Even the Devil as a master of evil is to be acknowledged, even while hated.)

  12. It is good to hear that a committed Communist expanded some views and is critical of some of the huge failures and atrocities of the Mao era. The Communist Party of China has undergone change. It is similar to the Republican Party of Abe Lincoln. Over time the Lincoln aspect has gone full circle. The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of The South and is like the Democratic Jim Crow party of the years until Lyndon Johnson came along and passed the Civil Rights Act. When he did that the Republicans saw their opportunity to go court the white bigots in the South. The South is all Republican now. Red states. In China, Mao has gone the way of Lincoln. In the Communist Party there are many who espouse monopoly capitalism and self indulgence. Many of the billionaires are Communists and well connected to the Party. As a matter of convergence: it is the American Republicans who want to do the deals with the Communist Capitalists in China. The Republicans are giving China all of our factory jobs. Rich Chinese Communists Capitalists are moving to places like Frisco and spending millions on homes. We hope they enjoy the view.

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