Files 'closed' on catastrophes of past, top party historian Xie Chuntao says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2014, 4:37am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2014, 4:43am

The Communist Party is unlikely to ever open all the files on its recent painful past, including the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, and sees no need to reassess those periods, a senior party historian said yesterday.

The 1958-1961 Great Leap Forward, when millions starved to death in Mao Zedong's botched industrialisation campaign, and the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution are two of the country's most sensitive historical events in modern times.

During the Cultural Revolution, children turned on parents and students on teachers after Mao declared class war, convulsing the country in chaos and violence.

While recent years have seen increased public discussion of both events, certain topics remain almost completely off-limits, including the death of Lin Biao , once handpicked to succeed Mao but killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1971 while fleeing the country after he was accused of plotting a coup.

Xie Chuntao, director of the Party History Teaching and Research Department at the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, said the party had reflected deeply on its mistakes.

But former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's conclusion that Mao made mistakes remained the correct way to broadly view the period, Xie told a news conference.

"I believe this summation is still, to this day, authoritative and has withstood the test of time," he said, in rare public comments by a party official on the country's fractious communist past.

The mistakes of the Communist Party's past were still being learned today by its members and he taught his own students about the Great Leap Forward, Xie added.

"Everyone has reached a consensus that the mistakes of the past will certainly not be repeated today or in the future."

Only a small number of the party's historical files were still sealed, he said.

"Some involve the state's core interests and some are not convenient to be released," Xie added.

"From a historical research [viewpoint] it is to be hoped that it would be best if they are all opened. But I fear this cannot happen and may never happen."