Anger over Mao Zedong lookalike at China blockchain conference

Impersonator was used in publicity stunt at an event on Hainan Island, sparking criticism online

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 4:23pm

The organisers of a blockchain conference held in southern China have apologised after the event featured an actor impersonating Mao Zedong, sparking criticism online.

The lookalike, Xu Guoxiang, addressed the crowd at the Boao Blockchain Forum for Asia in southern Hainan province on Monday dressed in a grey suit and speaking in the late Communist leader’s famous Hunan accent.

“You are worthy of being called the great sons and daughters of the Chinese nation and I thank you in the name of Mao Zedong,” the actor said, according to videos posted on WeChat, a social media platform.

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It is against the law in China to use the images or names of Communist Party leaders for commercial purposes. Mao is still seen by many in China as the founder of the modern nation.

The conference organising committee was quick to publicly apologise amid outrage online, with many of the comments criticising the publicity stunt as disrespectful later censored by the authorities.

“The Boao Asia Blockchain Forum organising committee expresses sincere apologies to all audiences, for the disturbance of public opinion caused by the conference,” a statement read, later reposted by the news website Sina Financial.

The investment company Panda Capital, which was advertised as one of the event’s hosts, denied it was linked with the conference.

“Panda Capital did not participate in the Boao Asia Blockchain Forum in 2018,” a statement was quoted as saying by the news outlet Sohu. “Prior to this, it did not have any contact with the forum. The words ‘Panda Capital’ appearing at the forum were not authorised.”

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The Boao Forum for Asia, an international conference held on Hainan Island which features many prominent speakers from business and politics, also issued an official statement on social media saying the two conferences were not linked.

The two-day blockchain technology conference began on Monday.

It was led by the blockchain and cryptocurrency media firm, BiKuai.org, which said on its website it expected 5,000 industry members to attend the event.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins bitcoin and other digital currencies.