China marks Mao Zedong's 120th birthday anniversary

People stand in line to enter the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Beijing
Image caption People queued to enter the Mao Zedong's mausoleum in Beijing

Celebrations are being held in China to commemorate the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China.

Top leaders including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang visited the Mao mausoleum in Beijing to pay their respects.

Thousands queued through the night near his childhood home in Shaoshan, Hunan, to see a huge fireworks display which is said to have lasted four hours.

Many more made the pilgrimage to the village to mark the anniversary.

Members of the Politburo Standing Committee including Mr Xi and Mr Li all visited Mao's mausoleum on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

However, there was no mention of Mao's birthday on the front page of the party's official paper.

Although in a commentary in later pages, the paper praised him as a "great patriot and hero", it also carried an editorial piece saying the "best commemoration" of Mao would be to keep advancing economic reforms that were launched by his successor.

Correspondents say Chinese politicians have to balance their praise of Mao, to whom they owe their political legitimacy, with an appreciation that some of his policies had disastrous consequences.

Millions died during the Great Leap Forward, when Mao's attempts to collectivise farms coincided with a massive drought.

And many intellectuals, older people and middle class people were purged or killed during Cultural Revolution.

Since the start of the reform period in 1978, leaders have paid respect to Mao's achievements but moved away from most of his policies.

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