Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng wins Nieman’s Lyons Award

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In recognition of his ambitious, fearless reporting, Nieman Fellows in the class of 2016 at Harvard have selected Chinese journalist and author Yang Jisheng for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.

Yang’s groundbreaking book “Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962” documents in forensic detail the true scale of one of the greatest human catastrophes of the 20th century. It is a sobering account of the Great Leap Forward policy implemented under Mao Zedong, which led to the death of some 36 million Chinese, primarily by starvation but also torture and murder. The award-winning book is banned in China.

In a statement, the Nieman Fellows said: “Yang’s work speaks to the effort of every journalist globally who faces enormous obstacles in reporting. Now more than ever the world needs courageous and dedicated journalists like Mr. Yang. He is a role model to all who seek to document the dark and difficult struggles of humankind.”

As a reporter for China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Yang spent most of his career working inside the system. However when China’s Communist Party sought to suppress information about the death toll of the 1958-1962 famine, he refused to remain silent. In 2008, Yang published the results of a decade-long investigation into the events of those years, meticulously documenting the deaths of millions of his countrymen and identifying Mao’s misguided policies and the country’s totalitarian political system as the root causes of the disaster.