China TV anchor Bi Fujian to be punished for Mao insult

image copyrightReuters
image captionMr Bi is the host of the talent show Star Boulevard

A Chinese star TV anchor is facing "severe punishment" over jokes he made about Mao Zedong, state media report.

A video of Bi Fujian singing a parody song at a private banquet and insulting the former Chinese leader in strong language was posted online in April.

Mr Bi was taken off air shortly after the incident, amid great controversy.

But People's Daily said officials had ordered his employer, state broadcaster CCTV, to punish him for "a serious violation of political discipline".

Mao, who led the country through the Cultural Revolution and a crippling famine which killed millions, remains the subject of much debate.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMao Zedong's legacy remains highly controversial, even in China where he is revered

Mr Bi hosts CCTV's annual hugely popular New Year variety show, and is best known in China for hosting the talent show Star Boulevard.

What did Did Bi Fujian sing?

He sang Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, a Mao-era song which dramatises a 1946 incident where a soldier infiltrated and helped to destroy a group of bandits.

In the video, he was seen singing part of the song and interjecting the lyrics with his comments.

"We are the peasant soldiers who have come to the deep mountains - come to the deep mountains to do what, eh?

"To vanquish the reactionaries - can you defeat them?

"Changing the earth and sky, several decades of revolutionary war in the north and south - it was tough enough.

"The Communist Party, Chairman Mao - Ugh, let's not talk about this son of a bitch any longer, he's caused us so much suffering."

Mr Bi's last statement on his Weibo microblog account was an April statement apologising for the incident, saying that his remarks had "created serious adverse consequences... as a public figure I must learn my lesson, and learn to have high standards and strict self-discipline".

News of his punishment has been greeted with a mixed reaction on Weibo, with some criticising the lack of freedom of speech and others arguing that he needed to be punished.

image copyrightGetty Images

Some noted the swift clampdown on Mr Bi was reminiscent of the brutal purges of dissent during the Cultural Revolution led by Mao.

"He was a bit too much, but he was just talking at the dinner table and someone told on him. If this isn't the Cultural Revolution, then what is?" said user Call Me Lixiumei.

Others also noted that many Weibo posts on the topic had been deleted, particularly comments that praised Mr Bi. China regularly scrubs the microblogging network especially on sensitive topics.

While China officially acknowledges there were faults in Mao, he remains hugely respected, and insulting him and other leaders is a taboo.

His legacy is also growing in popularity among those who feel China has moved too far away from his communist ideals.

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