In recent years, thanks to steady increases in immigration, tourism, and trade, Communist Chinese political influence in Australia has risen dramatically. As Philip Wen noted on August 22 in the Sydney Morning Herald, Oz-based supporters of the regime in Beijing have organized rallies in Sydney and Melbourne, mobilized crowds “to drown out Free Tibet and Falun Gong demonstrators during President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2014,” and staged various “cultural events” down under to promote Red Chinese interests and ideology.
But the newest chapter in this history may be a bridge too far. September 9 will be the fortieth anniversary of the death of Mao Zedong. On September 6, a concert of “Maoist songs and dances” will be held at Sydney’s town hall with the goal of “glorifying the life” of Mao; three days later, an identical concert will take place at Melbourne’s town hall.
These two events, which are entitled “Glory and Dream: In Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Death of Chairman Mao,” have a long and formidable list of sponsors, including the International Cultural Exchange Association (headed by Chinese-Australian musician Yuan Ye), a major construction firm called LB Homes Group (owned by Chinese-Australian developer Peter Zhu), two outfits called Australia Oriental Media Group and Australia China Media Group (both of which are paid handsomely by the Chinese government to churn out pro-Red Chinese propaganda), the fiercely pro-Beijing Federation of Australian Chinese Associations, and an assortment of other businesses, including Sankofa Funds Management, Shanghai Tiantong Group, and the Native Place Association of North-East China.
The promotional materials for these two concerts include the most eye-popping kind of pro-Mao rhetoric. Praising his “humanitarian personality,” they boast that Mao “led China’s democratic revolution which ended the 109 years of chaos in China from 1840 to 1949, and brought 76 years of peace and development to China, until it recovered its international status as a great country.” According to the concert sponsors, Mao is “a national leader forever in the hearts of Chinese people and a hero in the eyes of people all over the world,” and the concert “will interpret the charming personality and heroism of Mao Zedong from a variety of angles.”
Gratifyingly, there has been blowback – largely from Chinese-Australians, “many of whose families,” according to Wen, “suffered under the leader’s brutal legacy, the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward contributing directly to the deaths of tens of millions of people.” Chongyi Feng, who teaches China Studies at a university in Sydney, told Wen that for many Chinese-Australians, Mao “is just like Stalin to Russians or Hitler to Germans – he’s a mass murderer in their judgment so they’re very angry.”
“In their judgment”?
Not long ago, explained Wen, the Chinese community in Australia consisted mainly of people who’d fled – and despised – Communism. Now, the newer members of that community tend to be people who’ve profited from Red Chinese prosperity and who are, to various degrees, outright fans (and, in many cases, employees or contractors) of the Beijing regime. One member of the older, anti-Maoist faction, Shangxiao Han, is a businessman who’d “kept a low profile for more than 20 years” but felt moved to speak out against the Mao concerts and other such events. He and fellow Chinese-Australian anti-Maoists, who feel that they’ve become a minority in their community, have formed something called the Embrace Australian Values Alliance, which is petitioning to have the concerts canceled.
In a petition addressed to the local authorities in Sydney, the group expressed its “deeply concerned” about the September 6 concert and asked that they not allow it to be held at the town hall. Calling Mao “the biggest mass murderer in history,” they added that he
was personally responsible for massive tortures and persecutions resulting in the unnatural deaths of over 70 million Chinese people. He destroyed Chinese people’s traditional culture; he persecuted all religious believers; he torn down temples and monasteries; he banned all forms of democracy and social freedom. Maoism instigates violence and hate against Western laws and society. Mao and his crimes against humanity contravenes [sic] everything that Australian Values stand for.
So far, the petition has borne no results. Both cities – which aren’t involved in organizing the concerts – say they’ve rented out their town halls to the sponsors and can’t go back on those deals. But stay tuned. This could get interesting.