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The Anti-Rightist Movement (simplified Chinese: 反右运动; traditional Chinese: 反右運動; pinyin: Fǎn Yòu Yùndòng) in the People's Republic of China, which lasted from roughly 1957 to 1959, consisted of a series of campaigns to purge alleged "rightists" within the Communist Party of China (CPC) and abroad. The definition of rightists was not always consistent, sometimes including critics to the left of the government, but officially referred to those intellectuals who appeared to favor capitalism and were against collectivization. The campaigns were instigated by Chairman Mao Zedong and saw the political persecution of an estimated 550,000 people.
The Anti-Rightist Movement was a reaction against the Hundred Flowers Campaign which had promoted pluralism of expression and criticism of the government, even though initiation of both campaigns was controlled by Chairman Mao and were integrally connected. Going perhaps as far back as the Long March there had been resentment against "rightists" inside the CPC, for example, Zhang Bojun.
The first wave of attacks began immediately following the end of the Hundred Flowers movement in July 1957. By the end of the year, 300,000 people had been labeled as rightists, including the writer Ding Ling. Future premier Zhu Rongji, then working in the State Planning Commission, was purged in 1958. Most of the accused were intellectuals. The penalties included informal criticism, hard labor, and in some cases, execution.
One main target was the independent legal system. Legal professionals were transferred to other jobs; judicial power was exercised instead by political cadres and the police.
Historical revisionism after Mao
After Mao's death, many of the convictions were revoked in 1979. At that time, under leader Deng Xiaoping, the government announced that it needed capitalists' experience to get the country moving economically, and subsequently the guilty verdicts of thousands of counterrevolutionary cases were overturned — affecting many of those accused of rightism and who had been persecuted for that crime the previous twenty two years. This came despite the fact that Deng Xiaoping had been one of the most enthusiastic prosecutors of the movement during the "First Wave" of 1957.
Censorship in China
Discussion of the Anti-Rightist Movement is currently subject to heavy censorship within China. In 2007, a ban was placed on the book The Past Is Not Like Smoke, by Zhang Yihe, whose father Zhang Bojun was persecuted as a rightist, due to its discussion of the Anti-Rightist Movement.
In its meeting at the beginning of the year, the Chinese Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department listed the Anti-Rightist Movement as a topic to be restricted in the media and book publications.
In 2009, leading up the 60th anniversary of the PRC's founding, a number of media outlets in China listed the most significant events of 1957 but downplayed or omitted reference to the Anti-Rightist Movement. Websites were reportedly notified by authorities that the topic of the movement was extremely sensitive.
- Zhang Bojun, China's "number one rightist"
- Luo Longji, China's "number two rightist"
- Huang Qixiang
- Chen Mingshu
- Chen Mengjia
- "Uneasy silences punctuate 60th anniversary coverage". China Media Project. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
- The International PEN Award For Independent Chinese Writing, EastSouthWestNorth, retrieved 2007-01-19.
- Harry Wu; George Vecsey (December 30, 2002). Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty. Times Books. pp. 68–. ISBN 0-8129-6374-1.
- An Overview of Democracy Movements in China
- Petitioning for redress over the anti-rightist campaign - Human Rights in China (HRIC), 2005