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Impersonator mimics Mao at China tech event, triggers online backlash

Organisers claim the speech by mimic Xu Guoxiang reflected his personal opinion, apologise for the ‘negative impact’ caused by the incident.

world Updated: May 29, 2018 19:02 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Mao Zedong,Commercial event,Impersonator
A paramilitary policeman stands guard before a giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate. Mao continues to be deeply revered in China.(REUTERS File)

A Mao Zedong impersonator’s latest turn at a commercial event in China, where he delivered a speech wishing the forum wholehearted success, triggered an online backlash that forced the organisers to apologise.

Social media users said it was “shameless” and criticised the organisers for using the leader’s name to promote the event.

The publicity stunt was carried out in south China’s Hainan province at an event to promote blockchain technology.

During the event, Xu Guoxiang stepped on to the stage wearing a grey suit and speaking in Mao’s trademark Hunan accent. He said: “I sincerely hope this forum is a success. I thank you in the name of Mao Zedong.”

Xu – who has made a career impersonating China’s iconic leader – expected applause but was instead greeted with a muted response and later a much sharper reaction on social media.

Blockchain is described by the Harvard Business Review as the technology at the heart of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.

State-controlled Global Times tabloid reported Xu said during the speech that he “appreciates all guests in the name of Mao Zedong”. It quoted angry social media users as saying that the forum was “sensational without a bottom line, which is shameful”.

Another user was quoted as saying that “images of government leaders should not be tarnished and that the organisers of the forum should be held accountable”.

Despite criticism of some of his policies around the world, Mao continues to be deeply revered in China.

“The State Administration for Industry and Commerce issued a guideline in June 2007 that banned companies from using the names or images of government leaders in any form of commercial promotion,” the newspaper report said.

The forum’s organising committee told the newspaper it invited Xu as a guest to the forum and he delivered a speech with “actor characteristics and personal opinion”.

It added the speech represented Xu’s “personal opinions” and did not reflect that of the forum.

The committee told the newspaper it apologises for the “negative impact caused by the incident while suggesting people should correctly read Xu’s speech”.

First Published: May 29, 2018 15:27 IST