An artwork depicting the violence of the Cultural Revolution on display at Fan Jianchuan's museum near Chengdu, in Sichuan province, China. (AFP Photo)
Official Chinese media stayed largely silent about today's 50th anniversary of the start of the bloody Cultural Revolution, with discussion of the tumultuous decade still controlled on the mainland.
May 16 marked half a century since the 1966 declaration of the movement, which left mayhem in its wake and transformed the political landscape.
But the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, carried no articles about the anniversary in either Chinese or English.
The state-run Global Times ran just five paragraphs of an AFP story about the popularity of Cultural Revolution memorabilia but without including any political context.
In 1981 the Communist Party officially pronounced the Cultural Revolution a grave error that "led to domestic turmoil and brought catastrophe to the Party, the state and the whole people".
It ascribed chief responsibility to Mao Zedong, avoiding the question of the party's own culpability. Now it restricts discussion of the period to prevent undermining the legitimacy of its rule.
Asked about the anniversary at a regular press briefing today, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei offered only a single sentence in response: "The Chinese government already made the correct verdict on it long ago."
Users who sought to discuss the campaign on China's Twitter-like Weibo were censored.
The sin of the Cultural Revolution was that "it inspired as far as possible the evil in human nature, severed our national culture, destroyed our moral beliefs", said one deleted comment, according to archival site freeweibo.com.
"What's unbelievable is that there still remain doubts in our understanding of such a grave catastrophe, that its pernicious influence has failed to be eliminated, and that the culprits have yet to be investigated," the commentator added.
Another censored commentator had written: "Without thoroughly revisiting the Cultural Revolution, there will be people who want to bring it back."
In an editorial last week the Global Times admitted: "Despite the government's acknowledgement, the Cultural Revolution remains divisive."