Forty years on, Mao celebrated and condemned in Canada’s Richmond City

Louis Huang holds protest sign against Richmond event celebrating Mao Zedong on Sept 3
Louis Huang holding sign protesting Mao celebration in Richmond, Sept 3. Photo by Ng Weng Hoong

“Protestors forced Melbourne and Sydney to cancel event”

Canada’s Richmond City may have secured the dubious honour of being the only one outside China to host an event celebrating the life of Chinese leader Mao Zedong to mark the 40th anniversary of his death on September 9 1976.

On September 3, about 100 people attended an evening of song and dance performances in praise of the late Communist Party founder who led China to independence in 1949. The celebration focused on how Mao united the country after a century of rebellions, civil wars and colonial rule but ignored his role in the mass killings of an estimated 75 million Chinese in the last 18 years of his rule.

The event at the Stage One Academy along Minoru Boulevard was organised by the Vancouver Hunan Commercial Association of Canada. Mao was born in Hunan province in 1893.

Banner of event's organiser. Photo by Ng Weng Hoong

Banner of event’s organiser. Photo by Ng Weng Hoong

Some of the people who attended the performance said they came for the free flow of food and drinks.

“It’s Saturday evening, and I have nothing to do,” said an elderly Chinese man who declined to give his name.

“My friend asked me to come along. I don’t know what this is all about. I don’t understand Chinese,” said the only Caucasian man in the audience.

Grace Ao, Zhang

Piano player Grace Ao, violnist Zhang Honglin and singer Richard Wong. Photo by Ng Weng Hoong

Grace Ao, 20, who came with her mother, played the piano alongside violinist Zhang Hong Lin, 65, to support Richard Wong who sang under a glowing portrait of Mao.

“I’ve heard of Mao Zedong, but don’t really know the details of what he did,” she said.

Leah, an immigrant from Yunnan province, said that without Mao, there would not be a modern China today.

“I’m not for or against him,” she said.

Outside, a group of about 30 people staged a noisy protest to denounce Mao as a murderer and terrorist for his role in launching two of modern history’s biggest mass killings. The ironically named Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962 led to nationwide famine and the death of at least 30 million Chinese. Not satisfied, Mao launched the bigger horror of the Cultural Revolution between 1962 and 1976 that killed off another estimated 45 million of his fellow citizens while further impoverishing the country. Many of the victims were educated people who were arrested, tortured and killed by young communist cadres mostly on suspicion they were enemies of the state.

Mr Wu, a Vancouver-based landscape businessman, said Mao and the event’s organiser represent values that are against Canada.

P_MrWu_Flag1

Mr Wu, who was waving a Canadian flag, said:

“The Chinese Communist Party is trying to influence the Chinese in Canada. They’re trying to convince people that Mao’s killing millions of people was good. We don’t know who the organisers are, but they are against human rights.

“If we don’t stop them, they will continue with these activities.”

Mr Wu, who immigrated to Canada in 1993, said the Mao supporters don’t represent the Chinese community in his adopted country.

He said his family suffered when the Red Guards arrested his father, an engineer, in their Guangzhou home and exiled him to work in the Gobi desert. His health was broken and he died shortly after returning to Guangzhou.

Mr Wu, 52, said that as a boy, he witnessed public tortures and beatings in Guangzhou during the Cultural Revolution.

Another protestor, Louis Huang, 47, said many of the supporters of the September 3 celebration are recent migrants who had benefitted from Mao’s rule.

He said Richmond is the only city outside China to host a Mao celebration. Australia’s Sydney and Melbourne cancelled theirs following protests from members of the two cities’ Chinese community.

Mr Huang, who came to Vancouver in 2002 from Shanghai, said:

“We love Canada and subscribe to Canadian values. Why are they celebrating the life and death of history’s biggest mass murderer?”

Mr Huang was involved in a fierce argument with a staff of Stage One Academy who ordered the protestors to leave.

“This is Canada and it’s a free country. We’re not in China,” he shouted at the staff when she confronted them on the pavement.

When she threatened to call the police, Mr Huang and his fellow protestors told her to go ahead.

Albert King was among those who shouted down the Stage One Academy staff.

He said his family suffered greatly when Mao unleashed his Red Guards on China’s educated people and professional class.

His mother was forced to flee their home in Qingdao city to hide in Szechuan province after the arrest and torture of his father who was a university teacher.

“The entire family was tarnished and lost all our privileges,” he said.

Mr King said his mother’s brother fled Qingdao to look for her in Szechuan.

When he located her, she had to deny their relationship or that she even knew him out of fear the communists would accuse her of harbouring an enemy.

“Do you know how sad that is, that she had to do this to her own brother? My mum isn’t bad. The system was bad.”

Mr King said his father died a few years ago, a broken man who could not understand why he had been arrested and tortured.

“The system in China hasn’t changed. Up to now, there’s no justice.”

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