In China, 8-Year-Old Kids Could Be Tried for Insulting Chairman Mao

March 13, 2017 Updated: March 16, 2017

“People who harm the name, portrait, reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs” will be held accountable, reported China’s Communist Party-run Xinhua News Agency on March 13, referring to a line added to a draft civil law code.

Xinhua also noted that the draft laws would consider children as young as 8 to have “capacity for civil conduct,” down from the previous age limit of 10. An earlier draft contemplated charging mere six-year-olds with blaspheming the Party’s martyrs.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) guards its history closely, carefully airbrushing events to paint its 1949 overthrow of republican China and subsequent leadership as both historically inevitable and a boon for the Chinese people.

Citing unnamed public officials, Xinhua said that “certain people have maliciously defamed and insulted heroes and martyrs through twisting the truth and slander, harming the public interest and causing adverse social impact.”

The new law was added to the draft upon the suggestion of lawmakers in the National People’s Congress—the rubber-stamp parliament that effectively echoes CCP policy and ideological attitudes.

The Party avoids in-depth or holistic discussion of its past, preferring to inflate the presence of officially-approved narratives and individuals. Last July, Zhang Shujun of the Party History Research Center announced a research initiative to “conquer public opinion with persuasive and inspiring stories of the Party’s historical achievements,” as worded by the state-run Global Times.

In its propaganda, the CCP has combined semi-mythical accounts of heroic personas with its ideological messages of revolution, class struggle, and loyalty to the Party organization—characteristics that are supposed to have been indispensable to the survival of the Chinese. Famous among these is the soldier Lei Feng, upheld as the archetypical strong but downtrodden Chinese, who was supposedly born of excellent class background and during his short life worked with selfless dedication to communist leader Mao Zedong. Though most scholars are skeptical about his purported deeds, and even his existence, Lei still has an official holiday, “Learn from Lei Feng Day,” in his honor.

Lei Feng, the Chinese soldier eulogized by the Communist Party. The veracity of his deeds are disputed and it is unclear whether he even existed. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Lei Feng, the Chinese soldier eulogized by the Communist Party. The veracity of his deeds are disputed and it is unclear whether he even existed. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The history of communism in China is decidedly less glamorous.

Communist forces, who played second fiddle (if even that) to the Kuomintang government during the war of resistance against Japan, established a dictatorship more repressive and murderous than the nationalist junta they replaced. And in the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese society descended into the Cultural Revolution—a mass frenzy of killing and destruction that targeted the nation’s priceless ancient legacy and its scholar-bureaucrat traditions.

Today, regime authorities have embraced market economics in spite of its enshrined Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but violent suppression and mass-murder of religious and ethnic minorities, as well as disenfranchised citizens campaigning for their rights and welfare, continues.

The Party seems adamant about defending its version of the past. Beginning in February, the English and Chinese-language editions of the Epoch Times, along with their sister media New Tang Dynasty Television, suffered a month of persistent cyberattacks apparently intended at disrupting work and stealing data.  

The attacks, at least one of which originated in Shanghai, coincided with the independent media group’s launch of an editorial series dedicated to documenting the history of leftist regimes and their underlying ideology, including that of the Soviet and Chinese communist regimes.