TV anchor to face music for Mao insult

A popular Chinese TV anchor is facing "severe punishment" after being caught on camera making jokes about Mao Zedong and referring to the Great Helmsman as a "son of a bitch".

Bi Fujian, the 56-year-old host of the variety show Star Boulevard, was suspended from on-air duties at state broadcaster CCTV in April when the video was first leaked.

China Discipline Inspection Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the country's top graft watchdog, said over the weekend that Bi had "used ridicule to harm the image of the older generation of the Communist Party and the late state leader".

"(Discipline inspectors at the) State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television… decided it was not an ordinary violation of discipline. Instead, it is an act that seriously violated political discipline," Sunday's report said, according to the South China Morning Post .

The watchdog urged CCTV to impose a "severe punishment".

The 76-second video showed Bi at a dinner with friends, singing Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, a Cultural Revolution song which dramatises a 1946 incident where a soldier infiltrated and helped to destroy a group of bandits. Bi was seen singing part of the song and interjecting with comments, including: "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."

Bi's last statement on his Weibo microblog account was an April statement apologising for the incident, saying 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".

While China officially acknowledges that Mao had faults, his legacy is growing in popularity among those who feel China has moved too far away from his communist ideals, the BBC reported.

News of Bi's punishment was splashed on the front pages of many Chinese websites on Sunday, with thousands of comments from readers, The Guardian reported.

"It is really pathetic and disgusting that after all these decades, Mao is still a taboo," wrote one.

Another said: "Bi should be seriously punished and expelled from the party for insulting Chairman Mao".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'TV anchor to face music for Mao insult'. Print Edition | Subscribe