The producers of a controversial television series about late leader Deng Xiaoping have hit back at online critics accusing the programme of rewriting history, saying the plot is based on fact. Deng Xiaoping at History's Crossroads , a 48-episode drama that started airing in prime time on Friday on state broadcaster China Central Television, spans the time between the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and 1984, the early days of the country's economic reform and opening up, Xinhua reported. Mainland media said the show surprised many viewers with its novel portrayal of controversial political figures such as Hua Guofeng, Mao Zedong's successor, who was sidelined by Deng, and ousted liberal leader Hu Yaobang, whose death triggered the 1989 pro-democracy protests. The first episode ignited fierce online debate after it portrayed Hua as saying the Mao decided to "crush the 'Gang of Four'" before he died. The Gang of Four was led by Mao's fourth wife, Jiang Qing, and its downfall signified the end of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, which Mao launched to root out "capitalist roaders" whom he thought had infiltrated the party. Some Weibo users accused the programme of making up history, while academics said the plot tried to whitewash Mao's legacy by distancing him from the Gang of Four. The producers defended the script by producing what they said was an official document issued by the party's Central Committee in 1976 outlining the decision to bring down the Gang of Four, news website ThePaper.cn reported. The document detailed Mao's criticism of Jiang and his determination to deal with the group sooner or later. "The party Central Committee, headed by Hua Guofeng, carried out the unfulfilled wish of Chairman Mao … to solve this serious problem [the Gang of Four] and eliminated a scourge within the party," the news site quoted the document as saying. The 120 million yuan (HK$151 million) series was overseen by the literature research office of the party's Central Committee and the party committee of Sichuan province, where Deng was born, Xinhua reported. It was made to mark the 110th anniversary of Deng's birth on August 22. More than 10,000 copies of the series were sent to government leaders, researchers and Deng associates for feedback, China Daily reported.