Mao's banners torn in China on his 119th birthday

China today celebrated late party supremo Mao Zedong's 119th birthday amid reports of people tearing up his banners protesting his hardline policies as the country braces for more economic reforms while diluting Maoist doctrines under a new generation of Communist Party leaders.

"Despite the high spirits of the patriotic groups, the ceremonies (to celebrate the birthday) are not held in esteem by many who say Mao was responsible for tragedies such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76)", state-run Global Times said in its report today.

A memorial banner to Mao was ripped up by a man who disagreed with celebrating Mao's memory during Red Song gathering here on Sunday at the Jingshan Park here, it said.
In September, a university professor slapped a senior citizen for criticising Mao at an anti-Japanese rally in Beijing.

"Debate over how to evaluate Mao's accomplishments as the country's former top leader has been contemplated for a long time. Opinions are very polarised," Zhou Xiaohong, a sociology professor with Nanjing University, told the Global Times.

Last month ahead of the once-in-a-decade leadership change conference of the ruling Communist Party, four youth uploaded their pictures of tearing up portraits of Mao Zedong on the internet, creating a furore.

Any acts of desecration of Mao's pictures in the past would have been considered as
blasphemy but not any longer as his ideology was superseded by reforms agenda of his successor Deng Xiaoping after the death of the leader in 1976.

Mao's large size photo still hangs at the historic Tiananmen Square but his legacy is very much on the wane, especially among the youth.

Wang Junxiang, who organised a concert of red songs in memory of Mao in Hunan, told the Global Times that majority of participants are elderly and retired people, who grew up during the Mao era, and who feel strongly attached to his teachings.

"Mao's ideology had a great influence on a whole generation of Chinese people. People who feel unhappy with the current situation tend to look for answers in his teachings," he said.

Ahead of last month's leadership change during which a new set of leaders headed by Xi Jinping were elected to rule the country for the next decade, an attempt was made by the disgraced Party leader Bo Xilai to revive Maoist policies.

But his fall following the arrest of his wife Gu Kailai for the murder of a British national and her subsequent conviction by court giving a suspended death sentence, sealed his fate.

Since taking over, Xi has announced that he would vigorously pursue reforms and opening up policies to halt the economic slow down, ruling out any chance of the party reverting back to the old Maoist order.

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