Patriotic 'red songs' at China concert stirs controversy online

A concert featuring patriotic "red songs" has stirred up controversy online in China.
A concert featuring patriotic "red songs" has stirred up controversy online in China.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - As the 50th anniversary of the start of China's Cultural Revolution looms, a concert featuring patriotic "red songs" has stirred up fervour of a different kind, online.

The show in Beijing's Great Hall of the People praised the Communist revolution and its leader Mao Zedong and photographs published online by key performers Fifty-Six Flowers - a group of 56 girls and young women - went viral on Chinese social media, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported.

The pictures from Monday night's concert show girls in uniform wearing the "red scarf" - a symbol of the communist youth group the Young Pioneers - singing against the backdrop of a huge screen, which flashed images of Mao and President Xi Jinping, as well as propaganda posters from the Mao-era, including the Cultural Revolution.

One poster read "the people of the whole world should unite to defeat the American invaders and their lackeys" - the headline of a Mao article written in 1970 to voice support for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the war against the US, the Post said.

Music during the concert was predominantly so-called "red songs" praising the party and its leadership.

The Post said some songs also praised Xi, including one about his widely publicised "man of the people" visit to a steamed bun shop in Beijing in December 2013.

Some online accused the show of glorifying the Cultural Revolution, unleashed by Mao on May 16, 1966. Ten years of social upheaval and unrest followed.

Some also compared the show with the campaign to promote "red culture" in Chongqing under the city's now jailed leader Bo Xilai, the Post said. Bo is serving a life sentence for corruption.

"This is the role of power at play. They [the people with power] reminisce about it, so they can directly put on a show about it. They are only representing their own interests, which have nothing to do with the people's interests," one person wrote.

Another commented: "These scenes remind me of one thing: the political legacy of Bo."

Photographs of the show had been deleted by Fifty Six Flowers on their social media account by yesterday morning, the Post reported. Users who shared and commented on the photographs also had posts removed, according to the monitoring site Free Weibo.