When China’s equity bubble burst and the SHCOMP tumbled unceremoniously back to earth on the back of a harrowing unwind in the half dozen or so backdoor margin lending channels that had served to pump CNY1 trillion into an already inflated stock market, Beijing went looking for scapegoats. The ensuing crackdown on "malicious" sellers and "hostile foreigners" as well as a directive to reporters to avoid using certain phrases such as "rescue the market" served as poignant reminders to the world that although China is indeed making small steps towards liberalizing its markets, outcomes deemed undesirable by the Politburo will be "corrected" - and right quick.
Similarly, when a viral documentary about the country’s pollution problem began making the rounds back in March, the government moved quickly to suppress discussion as FT reported that "propaganda authorities directed news outlets not to publish stories about Under the Dome, the emotional first-person documentary by a former state television anchor."
Given the above, and given everything we know about China’s propensity for censorship in all its forms, you can imagine that one thing you would not want to do in China if you were, say, "one of the most recognizable faces" on a state-run television station, is call Mao Zedong "an old son of a bitch," but that’s exactly what Bi Fujian did back in April, and now Beijing’s media watchdog has "recommended" that Bi be "severely punished." Here’s more from The Guardian:
One of China’s best known television presenters is to face "severe punishment" after being caught on camera referring to his country’s Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong, as an "old son of a bitch".
As the host of “Star Boulevard” - a Britain’s Got Talent style variety show - Bi Fujian was one of the most recognisable faces on state broadcaster CCTV.
The 56-year-old had worked for the channel since 1989.
However, Bi’s future at the channel was cast into doubt in April after he was filmed at a private dinner mocking Chairman Mao, who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and ran it until his death in 1976.
The video – which has been viewed more than 480,000 times on Youtube – shows Bi entertaining fellow diners with a rendition of a song from a Cultural Revolution era opera called Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.
The television host peppers his table-side performance with a series of sarcastic asides about Mao, including: "Don’t mention that old son of a bitch – he tormented us!"
While Bi and his dinner guests may have gotten a good laugh out of what looks to be a generally good natured joke, it’s "that old son of a bitch" that will likely have the posthumous last laugh, because the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has deemed Bi’s behavior "a serious violation of political discipline" for which there is "zero tolerance." Here’s The Guardian again:
News of Bi’s punishment was splashed onto the front pages of many Chinese websites on Sunday with readers weighing in on the episode with thousands of comments.
"It is really pathetic and disgusting that after all these decades Mao is still a taboo," wrote one. Another commented: "Bi should be seriously punished and expelled from the party for insulting Chairman Mao."
And even though Bi has already said he feels "extremely pained" about his behavior, we suspect, based on the State Administration’s comments on Monday, that the "pain" may just begun.