To curb the spreading virus, mass gatherings were banned in China. But the restriction didn’t seem to apply to events organized to worship Chairman Mao.
by Li Guang
On January 25, a 90-year-plus member of Sheng’ai Church, a state-approved Three-Self church in the central province of Henan, traveled several miles to attend a service in Shangqiu city’s Liangyuan District, only to find the church closed. A notice posted on the door read, “To prevent the spread of the epidemic, all religious activities have been forbidden.” More than 100 congregation members had to disperse.
All places of worship in the city were closed down that day, as the authorities were taking measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. To enforce them, the local government dispatched personnel to be stationed outside churches and temples and installed new locks, keeping the keys, to prevent anyone from entering. Officials threatened directors and clergy members to disqualify them and take away religious activity registration certificates if anyone disobeyed the orders.
Canceling events and assemblies as a preventive measure was a sensible thing to do in this situation. But some mass gatherings were still allowed to proceed, disregarding the dangers to their participants. At 8 a.m. on January 25, performances and celebratory activities were launched outside the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall in Gaoxin town, administered by Shangqiu’s Suiyang district. More than 200 people were in attendance. Many participants went inside to burn incense, getting on their knees to worship Chairman Mao. A police car stopped nearby at some point, but officers didn’t even get out and left after a short while. The activities continued until 11 a.m.
“It seems that the police don’t want to offend Mao Zedong,” a middle-aged man watching the site from a distance commented with irony.
Video: A crowd gathered in front of the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall on January 25.
“The government is telling people that by following Maoism and Marxism they can protect themselves from the epidemic,” a woman outside the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall said. “The venues worshiping Mao Zedong should certainly not be disrupted.”
The woman’s comment, though sounded like a joke at the time, is not far from the truth. As the regime was criticized for mishandling the epidemic by its people and the international community, the CCP has ramped up propaganda efforts. For the outside world, it instructed its embassies to “raise doubts” in public opinion that COVID-19 has originated in China, calling it an “Italian” or “Japanese virus.” For the domestic audience, it filled the internet and media outlets with texts in the likes of, “Make Full Use of the Power of Maoism to Overcome the Epidemic” and “Believe in Marxism – the Endogenic Power to Overcome the Coronavirus Epidemic.” Many Chinese people laugh at them, believing that such propaganda add to the anger and frustration they feel toward the government, which doesn’t lose a single opportunity to demonstrate its superiority and the “advantages of Chinese socialism.” Even while watching its people die.