One of Chinese state TV’s top broadcasters has apologised for insulting Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China, at a private dinner.
Bi Fujian, host of China Central Television’s talent show Avenue of Stars, issued the apology on Thursday night via his microblog, which has 1.3 million followers, and said he would be more self-disciplined.
“I feel extremely guilty, and my heart aches,” Bi wrote. “I sincerely expressed my deep apology to the public.”
In a home video that circulated widely online before censors removed it this week, Bi apparently was seen singing a revolutionary song about communist party-led soldiers battling bandits in northeastern China in the 1940s.
To the laughter of guests, Bi adds his own commentary in a speaking voice between lines. After the lyrics mention Mao, Bi refers to him as a “son of a bitch” and says “he has ruined us all”.
Bi also mocks the soldiers, suggesting their battles were pointless and the song’s claim of victory boastful.
The incident renewed debate both on free speech and about Mao, who many Chinese feel should be held responsible for disastrous periods such the 1959-1961 famine and the chaos unleashed by the decade-long Cultural Revolution in 1966 when Mao appealed directly to the masses to root out reactionaries.
Though some of Mao’s policies have been officially critiqued, the ruling Communist party can hardly renounce him because it has built much of its legitimacy upon the imagery surrounding the revolutionary leader. A huge portrait of him still hangs in the heart of Beijing.
In a statement on Wednesday, CCTV said Bi’s remarks had “caused serious social impact”, promising: “We will conscientiously probe the matter and handle it seriously, in accordance with relevant rules and regulations.”
An article in China’s Global Times said that in general, private comments should not be used to identify a person’s politics but that Bi had to take responsibility for “improper remarks”, while a piece in the Legal Daily said Bi had not broken the law but should be held morally responsible for his comments.
The West China Metropolis Daily reported that all programmes hosted by Bi would be suspended from 8 to 12 April, but did not indicate whether the shows would air again after this.