Nightmare

The Guardian interviews historian Yang Jisheng, author of Tombstoneone of the first comprehensive studies of China great famine under Mao during the 1940’s and 50’s (it was first published in Hong Kong and is currently banned on the mainland):

“Even so, work by Yang and others has proved that senior leaders in Beijing knew of the famine as early as 1958. ‘To distribute resources evenly will only ruin the Great Leap Forward,’ Mao warned colleagues a year later. ‘When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that others can eat their fill.’

Ruthlessness ran through the system. In Xinyang, the Henan city at the centre of the disaster, those who tried to escape the famine were rounded up; many died of starvation or from brutality in detention centres. Police hunted down those who wrote anonymous letters raising the alarm. Attempts to control the population tipped over into outright sadism, with cadres torturing victims in increasingly elaborate, ritualistic ways: ‘The textbooks don’t mention this part of history at all,’ says Yang. ‘At every festival they have propaganda about the party’s achievements and glory and greatness and correctness. People’s ideology has been formed over many years. So right now it’s very necessary to write this book; otherwise nobody has this history.'”

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