A company that smashed a giant statue of Mao Zedong last month while redeveloping a district in Hainan province has come under fire from leftists, who labelled the action 'subversive' and an attempt to overthrow the socialist state. Erected on October 1, 2008, in the town of Longlou in Wenchang, the 9.9-metre, white marble statue had attracted many visitors, China News Service reported. Internet users on leftist websites demanded authorities severely punish the unnamed real estate developer for smashing the likeness of the Great Helmsman into five pieces. 'Why can't Longlou tolerate a magnificent statue of Mao Zedong?' China News Service quoted an internet user as saying. 'It's not only a humiliation to people in Longlou, but also a humiliation to Hainan people.' Internet users on maoflag.net and wyzxsx.com - two major leftist websites - were furious to see two photos of the broken statue posted online and widely circulated on the mainland's Twitter-like microblog platforms. One photo featured the head of the statue, its nose and forehead damaged. Many internet users said the way the statue was toppled was 'extremely cruel', akin to the way the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by American soldiers in Iraq 2004. A post on wyzxsx.com called it a 'serious political issue' and a 'forever pain in the hearts of Chinese people'. 'The ruining of the statue was meant to attack Maoists and Mao's image and is a sign of subverting socialist state power,' said the post, which had 20 signatures from supporters. A post on the China.com forum titled 'World-shaking news - the statue of Chairman Mao was ruined' triggered a fierce debate between supporters and opponents of Mao. Internet user Liudaliang5 called people who toppled the statue 'reactionaries', saying Mao was not just an ordinary person. An internet user critical of Mao wrote that when Mao was in power, statues of the emperor Huang Di, Confucius, North Song dynasty general Yue Fei and South Song dynasty official Wen Tianxiang were demolished. 'Now it's Mao's turn!' he wrote. More neutral internet users remarked it was merely a removal of a statue to make way for new buildings. 'Don't magnify this issue into a question of principle or ideology which is what the Nazis did,' one reply said.