China Central Television anchor Bi Fujian, who presents the CCTV talent show Avenue of the Stars, was filmed using a smartphone at a private dinner. The controversy shows the the extent to which former Communist party chairman Mao Zedong continues to divide Chinese society over 30 years after his death, writes Charles Clover for the Financial Times.
Mao continues to divide opinion in China
Many Chinese still see Mao as a demigod and credit him with founding modern China, while others call him a murderous despot that was responsible for millions of deaths due to famine and persecution experienced under his rule.
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The video shows Bi singing a political opera from the 1960s, at which time China was undergoing the Cultural Revolution. Fujian alters the lyrics of the opera, and at one point sings a line about “Chairman Mao of the Communist party,” before ad-libbing: “Don’t even mention that son of a bitch, he has brought enough trouble!”
China Central Television has suspended Bi and promised to “conscientiously probe the matter and handle it seriously.”
Another scandal involving China Central Television
The television network is currently under fire due to a string of corruption scandals involving another top anchor, Rui Chenggang, as well as the head of CCTV’s business channel. They have not been heard from since their arrests last summer.
Nie Zhenxi recently became the new head of CCTV, and now has to deal with a scandal. Bi appears as a “goodwill ambassador” on the website of the National Red Army School Programme, a pro-Mao educational foundation, but the video would appear to suggest that his opinion of the former leader changes significantly when he is at home.
Bi has since been fired by the foundation, and has made no public comment on the video or his suspension. Opinions in China are very much split on Mao, who has never been officially denounced. His face features on Chinese currency, as well as in Tiananmen Square.
Historian Zhang Lifan claims that the story exposes the “schizophrenia of those inside the system” and claims that “people evade this topic [Mao].”