Author Nieman Fellows forbidden to leave China

A former journalist with China’s official news agency says he has been blocked from travelling to the US to accept a Harvard University prize for a 2008 book uncovering the devastating toll of the great Chinese famine of 1958-1961.

In December 2015, Harvard’s Nieman Fellows awarded Yang Jisheng for Tombstone, a 1,200-page account of the famine — which he estimated claimed at least 36m Chinese lives — and a decades-long government effort to whitewash one of the worst man-made disasters in history.

Although more recent leaders have permitted, and sometimes even encouraged, the re-evaluation of Mao-era policies, any substantial discussion of national traumas such as the Famine can be highly sensitive.

Tombstone, for which Yang gained unprecedented access to restricted government archives, has been banned in mainland China.

Yang said that his former employers, Xinhua, had forbidden him to travel.

He did not specify how Xinhua would prevent him from travelling but Chinese retirees often depend substantially on their former employers for benefits and pensions.


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