From: Grant Callaghan (email@example.com)
Date: Mon 03 Mar 2003 - 15:23:10 GMT
The following article from the South China Morning Post illustrates the
Chinese communist efforts to make people content with poverty by creating a
hero who wanted nothing for himself. Now evidence has been produced that
shows he might not have been as selfless at he was portrayed and it has
people rising in anger. Most of his deeds and adventures were invented by
NAILENE CHOU WIEST
The mothballed youth hero Lei Feng came back to public consciousness this
year, the 40th anniversary of his death. But an old photograph showing the
model proletarian wearing a wristwatch has sent a few sparks flying.
Born in 1940, Lei lost his parents in the Sino-Japanese War. He grew up
imbued with dedication to the revolution, obedience to the party and passion
for serving the people. His diary showed his many selfless deeds, from
secretly washing his comrades' socks at night to buying a train ticket for a
young mother with a child.
He died in an accident at the age of 23. Mao Zedong praised Lei and urged
the whole country to learn from his example. Lei was an emblem of his era.
Even after China embarked on reform and opening, the "Learn from Lei Feng"
campaign was resurrected several times when party elders were alarmed by
corrupting Western influences and individualism.
The latest revival started four years ago in the form of an annual
conference to study the Lei Feng spirit. This year, the Lei Feng Museum in
Fushun added a few pieces of memorabilia to its collection, which includes
the picture of Lei wearing a wristwatch.
The curator explained that the picture had been hidden from the public for
four decades because, until now, people would not be capable of
understanding that a bit of self-indulgence should not detract from his
heroism. The effort to update the hero's image scandalised Lei's
contemporaries, now in their 60s.
"Lei Feng violated the army regulation that says soldiers at his rank were
not allowed to wear watches," one said. Some veterans calculated that the
imported watch on his wrist probably cost 300 yuan (HK$282 at current
A monthly allowance for a soldier like him was 5 to 10 yuan. "Wearing a
watch like that at that time was like driving a Mercedes-Benz today," said
Young people could not care less about the re-packaged role model. "I have
always thought he was phony," sneered one on the Internet. Others say that
Lei Feng is a simple-minded abstraction of revolutionary values. Let him
rest in peace.
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