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Chinese TV Star Apologizes For Remarks Critical Of Mao

A Chinese television star made a public apology after controversial remarks he made that were critical of communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

Bi Fujian, a regular presenter on state-run CCTV and the host of its annual New Year's variety show — the most-watched television program in the world, according to the BBC — says he's sorry for his actions.

At the private banquet, Bi performed a parody of a song from the Cultural Revolution-era opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. In it, he changed the words of the song to say "we've suffered enough" under Mao and referred to the father of modern China as "that old son of a bitch." The BBC says the parody elicited laughter from his fellow guests.

CCTV took Bi, 56, off the air for four days as punishment, saying he had made a "serious social impact" on the country.

In a statement, the television presenter acknowledged his "detrimental impact" and vowed that "as a public figure, I will learn from this, and exercise strict self-discipline."

Mao led Chinese communist forces to victory against nationalists in 1949 and subsequently ruled China until his death in 1976. He oversaw a period of economic upheaval and political purges that led to the deaths of millions of Chinese.

Even so, Mao is the subject of historical debate, and opinion in China is split between those who see him as a hero and others who view his legacy in a less flattering light.

After his death, China's Communist Party admitted that Mao made mistakes during his rule and officially determined that his policies were "70 percent correct and 30 percent wrong."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.