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Yang Jisheng was awarded Harvard’s Nieman Fellows in December for “Tombstone”

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Yang Jisheng - China forbids Great Famine author from taking Harvard prize

China forbids Great Famine author from taking Harvard prize

Yang Jisheng is a famous Chinese author. He is a retired correspondent from Beijing’s official news agency named Xinhua. Yang was awarded the prestigious Harvard University’s Louis M Lyons award in December for fearless and ambitious reporting of one of the deadliest man-made calamity of 20 century.

He is being awarded for his 2008 book Tombstone uncovering the great famine that took place in 1958-1961. Tombstone for which Yang got many international awards has been banned in mainland china.


According to news Yang has been banned from leaving the country to accept the prize in the United States. The 1200 page book Tombstone covers the tragedy of great famine that took place in china from 1958 to 1961.

The author estimates the loss of at least 36 million lives including his own father. Yang in the introduction to the English edition of his book said that his fifteen-year enquiry into the famine was an attempt to expose how a totalitarian system had attempted to forcibly eradicate all memory of the disaster.

Yang said that Xinhua had banned him from travelling but did not specify how Xinhua had prevented him from flying and whether his passport had been taken. He travelled in November to receive prestigious Stieg Larson Prize in Stockholm as he had not informed the authorities before.

While receiving the award, Yang said that I accept this award with grief. He further added that he grieve that this human tragedy that occurred five decades ago is still being covered up while those who uncover this human tragedy are pressured, attacked and slandered. When Xinhua was asked about this they replied that they never heard of any award being announced for Yang so they are not able to give any response.

When the decision to honour Yang was announced Harvard said it hopes to recognise dedicated and courageous journalist who has the battle to document the dark and difficult struggles of humankind.

Yang has received many international awards for his work and was able to travel outside the country before. Hamish Macdonald and Debra Adams, the co-chairs of Harvard said that they are optimistic that Chinese journalist will grant permission to travel and accept the prize on 10th of march at Harvard University.

They added that they are following all required steps to enable Mr. Yang to travel to Harvard in march. They also said that they had no formal indications of any problem and look forward to welcoming Mr. Yang.


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