Bi Fujian, the host of an America's Got Talent-style show on China's state-operated TV channel CCTV, is in big trouble for private remarks he made earlier in the year about Mao Zedong, the ruler of communist China from 1949 to 1976. The setting was a private dinner, where Bi was hacking around. Unfortunately for him, someone captured his comments and shared them online.
Video – which has been viewed more than 480,000 times on Youtube – shows Bi entertaining fellow diners with a rendition of a song from a Cultural Revolution era opera called Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.
The television host peppers his table-side performance with a series of sarcastic asides about Mao, including: "Don't mention that old son of a bitch – he tormented us!"
Those "disparaging" remarks represented "a serious violation of political disciplines", China's media watchdog announced on Sunday. It called for CCTV, which had already suspended its star presenter, to impose a "severe punishment".
The Guardian notes that China's current leader, Xi Jinping, has been cracking down on all sorts of dissent (if speaking truth about a dead leader even counts) since becoming president two years ago.
For the record, Mao is widely considered responsible for between 20 million and 40 million deaths. He also oversaw the creation of Laogai, a forced-labor and penal system that the Communist Party wants to keep in the dark. Go here to learn more about that.
This sort of story—not to mention the terrible treatment of artists, writers, and activists in China—is one more indication that for all its progress since Mao died, the country still has a long, long way to go is approximating the simplest forms of liberal democracy.
Milton Friedman stressed that economic liberalization typically led to politial reform as citizens became wealthier and more forceful in calling for a freer society in which they might spend their money. That seems to be playing out in China, though it's sadly true that the dynamic isn't a clean, linear one. The process is filled with steps forward and backward and those in power rarely give it up without all sorts of fights.
Watch "Killer Chic: Hollywood's Sick Love Affair Affair with Che Guevara and Other Murderers," for a terrifying true story of living in Mao's China.