China ignores revolution anniversary

A vendor eats noodles next to a poster of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong (L) at a market in Beijing on May 15, 2016.Image copyright

Image caption

Social media users in China pointed out the lack of coverage

The 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution, which plunged China into a decade of chaos, has been met with silence in state media.

On 16 May 1966 Communist leader Mao Zedong began a campaign to eliminate his rivals. At the same time he called on Chinese youth to “purge” society.

Years of bloodshed and turmoil ensued, ending with Mao’s death in 1976.

How to handle the era’s contentious legacy has remained a challenge to China’s Communist rulers to this day.

On Monday, the main state media outlets made virtually no mention of the anniversary, focusing on coverage of the South China Sea and other domestic issues. No official events were planned by the authorities to mark the 50-year milestone.

One blogger “Media Lao Wang” posted a picture on micro-blogging site Weibo that showed the front pages of five major Chinese newspapers on Monday and none of them mentioned the Cultural Revolution.

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BBC/Media Lao Wang Weibo

Another Weibo user called @Sunshine raningwind said: “Cultural Revolution is the history of China’s appalling disaster, let civilization back thousands of years, it is necessary to reflect on the Cultural Revolution, vestiges need to be clean and wash away at least a few decades.

Only Hong Kong media, which enjoy greater freedoms than their counterparts on their mainland, gave coverage to the anniversary.

It is seen by many as the most chaotic period of recent Chinese history, but analysts say there are some on the mainland who still lionise the leftist ideals of the age.

Media captionWhat was China’s Cultural Revolution?

What was the Cultural Revolution?

The Cultural Revolution was a campaign launched by Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1966 to purge his rivals in the ruling Communist Party. It ended up destroying much of China’s social fabric.

What happened during it?

Chairman Mao gave licence to Chinese youth to destroy the so-called four “olds” or perceived enemies of Chinese culture: customs, habits, culture and thinking. In the early years, a chaotic kind of youth “tyranny” prevailed which saw schools and temples destroyed. Children turned on their parents and students turned on their teachers, intellectuals were exiled. Thousands were beaten to death or driven to suicide. Mao also encouraged a personality cult around himself, which led to people almost worshipping his writings and image.

How long did it last?

It officially ended only with Mao’s death in 1976. Millions were denounced and punished during this time, but there are varying estimates as to how many people actually died.

In pictures: Objects of revolution

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