A Photographer’s Quest to Reverse China’s Historical Amnesia

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tags: China, photography, Cultural Revolution

The photographer Li Zhensheng is on a mission to make his fellow Chinese remember one of the most turbulent chapters in modern Chinese history that the ruling Communist Party is increasingly determined to whitewash.

“The whole world knows what happened during the Cultural Revolution,” Mr. Li said. “Only China doesn’t know. So many people have no idea.”

Clad in a dark blue photographer’s vest, Mr. Li, 78, spoke in a recent interview in Hong Kong, where the first Chinese-language edition of his book “Red-Color News Soldier” was published in October by the Chinese University Press of Hong Kong.

Blending history and memoir, the photo book compiles images taken by Mr. Li in the 1960s when he was working at a local newspaper in northeastern China. Since 2003, the photos have been exhibited in more than 60 countries, bearing witness around the world to the Cultural Revolution — the decade-long turmoil that unfolded from 1966 and turned students against teachers, sons against fathers, and friends against friends.

With the new edition of his book, Mr. Li joins the small ranks of Chinese who survived the excesses of Mao Zedong’s rule and are determined to challenge the official historical narrative at a time when President Xi Jinping has pushed to suppress criticism of his party’s traumatic past. Under Mr. Xi’s rule, the authorities have waged a broad ideological crackdown on dissenting voices, making efforts to objectively chronicle history fraught with risk.

Read entire article at New York Times

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