An actor who impersonated former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong delivered a speech at a conference about blockchain technology in China, causing outrage and forcing organizers to apologize.
Wearing a gray suit and imitating Mao’s Hunan accent, a man named Xu Guoxiang parodied the founder of the People’s Republic of China at the Boao Blockchain Forum for Asia in Hainan Province, the BBC reports.
“I sincerely hope this forum is a success. I thank you in the name of Mao Zedong!” Xu reportedly said at the conference.
Names and images of Chinese Communist Party leaders are forbidden to be used for commercial purposes, according to Chinese law. Videos clips of Xu’s speech have been heavily censored online
The stunt stirred controversy on Chinese social media, with some users describing the act as “shameful” and “sensationalist,” according to the Global Times.
While Mao is seen as a controversial figure for launching the Cultural Revolution that crippled the country’s economy and upended the lives of millions of Chinese people, he is still praised by many as the founder of modern China.
The event’s organizers issued a statement saying they were “deeply sorry” for the speech that caused “unhealthy influences,” adding that Xu’s performance reflected the actor’s views, not the organizers, Quartz reports.
Big names in Chinese blockchain, including venture capital firms Panda Capital and Lightspeed Capital, and industry publication Golden Finance, issued statements saying they were not affiliated with the event.
“We strongly condemn any blockchain activities that are illegal, against public order and the morals of the society, and misleading to the public,” read a statement from Golden Finance, Quartz reports.
Xu was described as a “little-known actor,” on Chinese state radio, according to BBC.