October 14, 2013 / 11:31 AM / 5 years ago

Mass singing honoring Mao in anniversary bash sparks outrage

BEIJING (Reuters) - Celebrations costing $300 million to mark the birth date of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, including mass singing and a noodle feast, have sparked popular anger amid a crackdown by authorities on extravagance.

The old portrait of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong (L) is removed from Tiananmen Gate to make way for a new one (R) during annual renovation works before the country's 64th national day on October 1, in the early morning in Beijing September 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The local government of Mao’s birthplace said on Monday that the events on December 26 marking the 120th anniversary of his birth will include 10,000 people singing a song comparing the revolutionary leader to the rising sun. Another 10,000 will eat “auspicious” birthday noodles at various locations.

“Shaoshan is making the commemoration of comrade Mao Zedong’s birthday the paramount political mandate that overrides everything,” the city government of Xiangtan said on its Internet site.

Xiangtan, which administers the smaller city of Shaoshan, where Mao was born, said it had spent 1.95 billion yuan ($318.60 million) on the celebrations.

One of the pivotal figures of the 20th century and the focus of a personality cult, Mao led China for almost three decades.

Supporters say he created a strong, unified China out of the chaos of the 1930s. Detractors blame him for policy mistakes that led to millions of deaths in famine and repression.

Mao died in 1976, aged 83. His body remains on display in a crystal coffin in a mausoleum in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where admirers from all over China wait in long queues on anniversary dates to pay homage.

The lavish anniversary plans fly in the face of current leader Xi Jinping’s crackdown on government waste and corruption and some citizens took to the Internet to express their anger.

“Is it really worthy to spend 1.9 billion yuan on someone who has already died?” user Li Gaofeng wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “There are so many poor children and widowed or childless elderly people waiting for help in mainland China.”

“This is blatant corruption,” fumed user Zheng Huoshen.

Shaoshan, in the mountainous southern province of Hunan, had an annual GDP of less than 5 billion yuan in 2012. ($1 = 6.1206 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Li Hui and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Ron Popeski

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