Mythical lizard lampoons party line

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am

As China ushers in the Year of the Tiger, a mythical new creature has been born, taking over from the Grass Mud Horse as the latest internet buzzword. And it's all thanks to the China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala show.

The animal, the Yake Lizard, or Yake Xi in Chinese, was created by internet satirists who thought a song and dance performance in the gala expressed excessive praise for Communist Party policies towards the Uygurs of Xinjiang .

The item in the world's most-watched show caught many people's attention, but not for the reasons expected by the directors.

A group of Uygur-looking performers sang the praises of the Communist Party in a song entitled Party Policies are Yakexi. Yakexi, a well known Uygur phrase for 'good', has since then became a nationwide catchphrase. Xi in Chinese can mean lizard.

The protagonist of the performance, a farmer who goes by the name Maimaiti, waxes lyrical about the Communist Party scrapping agricultural taxes, paying for his children's education and providing health care assistance. He repeatedly sings 'what is yakexi, what is yakexi, the party's policies are yakexi'.

The performance was reportedly the first item to be approved by CCTV for the gala show, a staple of festival entertainment for mainland Chinese since the 1980s. But soon after reports about the performance emerged, internet users lashed out at its excessive flattery, saying it did not match reality.

A deadly riot broke out in Xinjiang's capital city, Urumqi , last year partly due to Uygur discontent at what they considered to be unfair government policies.

Born merely a week ago, the Yake Lizard has quickly become a popular internet mascot. He is on a par with the Grass Mud Horse, which was another brainchild of internet users last year, that involved in a mischievous protest against mainland internet censorship.

According Douban, a mainland social networking website, the Yake Lizard hails from restive Xinjiang. It is said to prey on river crab - internet slang that is almost homophonous with 'harmonise', a euphemism for censorship - between April and June, the fourth and sixth months, on the Ertix River. Six and four, when put together, is a sensitive combination that refers to the crackdown on democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

An entry added to Baidu's online encyclopedia about the Yake Lizard was soon deleted as were many other references on the internet. But according to postings that carried the text from Baidu encyclopedia, the Yake Lizard was named after the sound, 'yakexi', it makes during mating. The reptile has a pair of wings, which are not for flying but for absorbing solar energy.

Elsewhere on blogs and online forums, many hailed the birth of the new creature. Blogger and writer Han Han launched a competition to rewrite the lyrics of The Party's Policies are Yakexi on his blog. The lyrics could be altered except from 'what is yakexi, what is yakexi, the party's policies are yakexi', he wrote. A grand prize of 5,000 yuan (HK$5,674) would be awarded to the best lyricist.

This year's CCTV gala has generated other controversies too. Many criticised the show's lack of creativity and abundance of soft advertisements. Critics also wondered whether singers such as Faye Wong lip-synched and if Taiwanese magician Liu Qian's magic show was faked.

On the Tianya forum, an internet user even suggested that universal suffrage be implemented for a vote on whether to abandon the show. 'There was nothing interesting aside from the hi-tech stage background,' he wrote.