Eight decades after his grandfather was killed during the Chinese civil war, Fang Huaqing is fighting to defend his legacy as a Communist hero.
Mr. Fang has filed legal complaints against online critics of his ancestor’s record over the past year. His campaign got a boost Friday, when China’s legislature passed a law that requires “all of society” to “honor, study and defend” Communist Party-approved heroes and martyrs.
The law, which takes effect Tuesday, subjects anyone who defames members of that select group to potential criminal penalties and civil liabilities.
Mr. Fang has called the “Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law” a necessary, if belated, measure to protect the reputation of national heroes. “A nation that doesn’t uphold its own history has no future,” said the 52-year-old deputy director of a provincial government archive.
Enforcing control over Chinese history is a priority for President Xi Jinping, who has staked the legitimacy of Communist rule on claims that he and his ruling party are guiding China’s return to greatness.
Heroes and martyrs feature prominently in Mr. Xi’s propaganda campaigns, which often hark back to the party’s revolutionary roots. Officials have said that strong legislation is needed to promote patriotism and squelch “historical nihilism”—an official epithet for skepticism about the party’s contributions to China’s progress.
Authorities more aggressively policing history have already banned books, censored academic articles and denounced critics of official versions as disloyal dissidents who want to destroy the party and ruin China.
Public discussion of Chinese history is already curtailed by party oversight and the potential censure or dismissal of dissident scholars. The law will bring the threat of legal punishment into that environment. [Continue reading…]
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