BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court has sentenced a man to 14 months in jail for defacing the giant painting of Communist leader Mao Zedong displayed near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, state media reported.
Sun Bing, 42, was arrested at the scene in March 2014 after he threw a bottle of ink on Mao’s portrait. A Beijing court ruled on Wednesday that he had “defied the law when he made a mess and caused public disorder,” said the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party.
The paper did not give Sun’s motive for defacing the portrait. Calls to the Dongcheng District People’s Court went unanswered.
The six-meter (20ft) tall oil painting of the “Great Helmsman” has been vandalized on several occasions over the decades since being hung above a gate to Beijing’s Forbidden City, and is now periodically replaced with near identical copies.
During the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square, three demonstrators splattered Mao’s portrait with paint and later received long jail terms.
The site is considered especially sensitive since the demonstrations were crushed by the military on June 4 of that year. The area is now tightly controlled by police and plainclothes officers, who quickly stamp out any signs of dissent.
Mao, who died in 1976, remains a divisive figure. He is revered by many in China for uniting a vast country, much of which had been divided up by warlords and foreign invaders.
While the Communist Party has acknowledged Mao made mistakes, there has yet to be an official accounting for the chaos of the Cultural Revolution or the millions of deaths from starvation during the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward. The official verdict of his rule is that he was 70 percent good and 30 percent bad.
Earlier this month, an anchor on China’s main state broadcaster, CCTV, apologized after a video of him insulting Mao went viral on social media sites, sparking an investigation by the channel.
Reporting by Michael Martina