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Friday, May 25, 2012

China's man-made famine

24 May 2012 

Documenting China's lost history of famine

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

 Chinese communists launched the Great Leap Forward 
campaign under Mao Zedong's leadership

The great famine that devastated China half a century ago killed tens of millions of people - but is barely a footnote in history books.

There are few open public records of an event that is seared into the memories of those who survived this largely man-made disaster.

A documentary maker now hopes to redress that imbalance by collecting the stories of hundreds of people who lived through the famine.

He has sent young film-makers across China to video the survivors' testimonies.

Some of those videos have already been shown to the public in screenings at the 798 arts district on the outskirts of Beijing.

Stories are still being collected and the long-term aim is to bring all these video memories together.

Wu Wenguang, the man behind the project, said: "If we don't know about the past, then there will be no future."

Stealing to survive

Armed with video cameras, Mr Wu's researchers have already travelled to 50 villages in 10 provinces across China.

So far they have collected more than 600 memories from the famine, the result of a disastrous political campaign launched by Mao Zedong.

The Great Leap Forward was supposed to propel China into a new age of communism and plenty - but it failed spectacularly.

Agriculture was disrupted as private property was abolished and people were forced into supposedly self-sufficient communes. (...)

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