The Power Shift

Is ripping up Mao’s portrait a crime?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 5:52pm

You sometimes wonder whether China’s Cultural Revolution is really over.

It does not appear to be for Henan’s Cao Xiaodong, who was illegally detained on Thursday for publicly ripping up Mao Zedong’s portrait with three friends in Henan’s capital city Zhengzhou last month.

The three other young men who participated were: Xiaodong, Ji Laisong, Lin Qilei , Cheng Shuaishuai. They are being sought by police.

Chen Ying, wife of Cao Xiaodong, has been seeking help from Weibo, China’s twitter-like service. Chen Ying said her husband broke no law and deserved to be released. Chen Ying described Cao Xiaodong as a devoted social activist, who helped to build China’s first serviced apartment for HIV patients, brought them soymilk on his visits, and helped patients’ families find work in rural villages.

In a photo taken on October 25, the four men, each holding Mao’s portrait, can be seen ripping it in half. They appear calm and relaxed.

Ji Laisong, one of the participants and a lawyer, told Free Asia they were protesting against Maoists in Zhengzhou, who often gather in Zijin Square – the place where the incident occurred.

Chen Ying said Cao Xiaodong and his friends had previously participated in protests against media censorship and police violence.

The participants received angry calls and death threats after the photo was posted online.

Chen Ying said police refused to offer an explanation or to tell her when Cao Xiaodong would be released.

Excuse me. What law did Cao break? The last time I checked, there is no law in China prohibiting people from ripping up Mao’s portraits. If it’s a crime, at least write it into law. 

A little transparency from the police would definitely help.