Home Web information Mason students create digital archive for victims of China’s anti-‘rightist’ campaign

Mason students create digital archive for victims of China’s anti-‘rightist’ campaign


This summer, students at George Mason University designed and developed a pilot web-based archiving application to organize documents relating to victims of China’s anti-“right-wing” campaign in the 1950s.

Student team brainstorming ideas. Photo provided

Six undergraduate students and one doctoral student participated in a summer team impact project to create the online platform. Using the pilot app, researchers will be able to search vast archives relating to the names, birth and death dates, and biographies of individuals labeled “right-handed.”

“Documentation was not easily searchable,” said Myeong Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Information Science and Technology who co-supervised the project. “This online platform will allow users to not only search the archive, but also contribute to it as more information is found.”

Predating the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the anti-“rightist” campaign was launched by Chairman Mao Zedong to purge “rightists” from the Chinese Communist Party and the whole country.

Beginning in 1957 and lasting around two years, the campaign is said to have reached between 500,000 and 2 million people. The targeted individuals were re-educated, humiliated, displaced or executed. The main emphasis was on “intellectuals”, which usually meant professors, teaching artists, writers and doctors.

“There are very few living people from that era who can tell us what happened, so it is urgent that we document who the ‘right-handers’ were and their experiences,” said Shanshan Cui, associate professor specializing in in design at Mason’s School of Art who oversaw the project with Lee.
sample web page design

The student researchers presented the results of their summer efforts online in August. In the presentation, the students describe how their goal was to research and create an easy-to-browse online archive, starting with 40,000 documents.

“I’m really happy to have participated in the project,” said Weilon Price, a senior IT specialist. “I learned a lot about the web framework and analyzing large amounts of data. I also learned a lot about teamwork and communicating effectively with my team.

The student researchers, who had previous experience and an interest in software design and development, received training in the areas of data analysis, computational methods for processing large amounts of information, and software development.

“Working on the project was a great way to spend my summer,” said Joel Adeniji, a senior IT specialist. “I was fortunate to help ensure that this part of history will never be forgotten.”