| Global Times | 2012-12-26 0:45:00
By Bai Tiantian
Patriotic groups around China are holding memorial ceremonies Wednesday for the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong, on the 119th anniversary of his birth.
A memorial gala was held Monday night at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, which was attended by many celebrities such as former CCTV news anchor Zhao Zhongxiang and Mongolian ethnic singer Wulan Tuya.
"I want to give my best wishes to my country and pay my highest respect to Chairman Mao," the news portal china.com.cn quoted Wulan Tuya as saying after she preformed her new "red song" at the gala.
In Beijing, hundreds of people gathered at Jingshan Park Sunday to sing revolutionary songs while holding Mao's portraits.
People in Hunan Province, where Mao was born in 1893, and Gansu Province are also holding large "red song" concerts on Wednesday. Exhibitions featuring Mao-themed art and calligraphy have been on display in various cities in Henan and Tianjin since last week.
"We have been holding 'red song' concerts to celebrate Chairman Mao's birthday every year for the past decade," Wang Junxiang, the organizer of the concert in Hunan, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"We are expecting several hundreds of people to show up at the concert Wednesday morning," Wang said.
Wang, 48, said a majority of participants are elderly and retired people, who grew up during the Mao era, and who feel strongly attached to his teachings and to the Communist Party of China.
"These events are completely voluntary. The government approves the ceremony but did not sponsor it in any form," Wang added.
Despite the high spirits of the patriotic groups, the ceremonies are not held in esteem by many who say Mao was responsible for tragedies such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
An employee at Jingshan Park in Beijing confirmed with the Global Times Tuesday that during Sunday's "red song" gatherings, a memorial banner to Mao was ripped up by a man who disagreed with celebrating Mao's memory.
Previous events have also shown similar clashes such as a university professor who was photographed at an anti-Japanese rally in Beijing slapping a senior citizen who criticized Mao's policies.
"Debate over how to evaluate Mao's accomplishments as the country's former top leader has been contemplated for a long time. Opinions are very polarized," Zhou Xiaohong, a sociology professor with Nanjing University, told the Global Times.
"Mao's ideology had a great influence on a whole generation of Chinese people. People who feel unhappy with the current situation tend to look for answers in his teachings," he added.
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