CTV News "In his small ground-floor apartment just a few blocks from Beijing's landmark Bird's Nest stadium, Chinese language teacher, writer and do-it-yourself documentary maker Xu Xing is urgently preserving what he can of China's forbidden past." by Jack Chang and Isolda Morillo via AP
'Traveling usually by himself all over the country, the tall 58-year-old
has recorded hours of interviews with everyday Chinese who were jailed,
sometimes for years, on the barest of political charges during the
decade-long spasm of social chaos known as the Cultural Revolution. Xu
has edited that footage into documentaries that he only shows to those
he trusts, in living rooms and coffee houses, preserving for history
memories kept secret for decades.
'"I want it so that this never happens in China again, so this is my
tireless job," Xu said on a recent afternoon sitting at his kitchen-top
editing bay. "I tell the people I interview, `Clearly, I can't bring you
any money or other reward. The main thing I do is let other people know
'With the ruling Communist Party zealously enforcing its own version of
Chinese history, Xu's truth-telling is nothing less than an act of
defiance. The government has largely succeeded in erasing or playing
down whole swaths of Communist-era history by controlling what's talked
about in the country's classrooms, museums and books, as well as in
other areas of public life.
'Ask the average Chinese under the age of 30 about the 1989 Tiananmen
Square massacre, which scholars say claimed the lives of hundreds of
pro-democracy student activists and bystanders in the heart of Beijing,
and the answer will likely be ignorance or at best vague recognition.
The same amnesia cloaks other dark periods of 20th-century Chinese
history such as the catastrophic famines of the late 1950s, widely
blamed on the government's push to rapidly industrialize, and the
Cultural Revolution, which persecuted millions from 1966 to 1976.
'Fu King-Wa, a journalism and media studies professor at the University
of Hong Kong, said many of his students from mainland China learned of
the Tiananmen massacre for the first time through his lectures.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city, enjoys more freedom compared
to the mainland, where Chinese who research and publicize the past on
their own are often censored or jailed for causing trouble.
'"This is authoritarian control of people's access to information. They
want to create a unified version of how to understand this historical
issue," Fu said.'