Chinese celebrity blogger sued for mocking Mao-era martyr

Satirical post on Korean War hero damaged soldier’s honour, court says

A section of a poster paying tribute to  Korean War soldier Qiu Shaoyun, said to have stayed still and silent in the long grass on Hill 391 when an American incendiary bomb landed nearby. Photograph: swim ink 2/Corbis via Getty Images

A section of a poster paying tribute to Korean War soldier Qiu Shaoyun, said to have stayed still and silent in the long grass on Hill 391 when an American incendiary bomb landed nearby. Photograph: swim ink 2/Corbis via Getty Images

 

A web celebrity and a drinks company have been ordered to apologise to the family of a Korean War hero after a satirical post which the court said besmirched the soldier’s reputation and honour.

In one of the most popular propaganda narratives of the Korean War (1950-1953), in which China fought against the US on the North Korean side, Qiu Shaoyun was hiding in the grass on Hill 391 when an American incendiary bomb landed nearby.

“Realising that any sound or movement would give away the position of his comrades, Qiu endured the agonising pain in silence and was burnt to death,” runs the official narrative on state media and in textooks.

In 2013, the blogger Sun Jie, whose online name is Zuoyeben or “Copybook” and has more than nine million followers, made fun of the story in a satirical blog post, framing the narrative as communist propaganda.

“Since Qiu Shaoyun didn’t move one bit in the fire, diners refused to pay for food cooked on only one side . . . they think roasted Lai Ning is better,” he wrote, referring to another national hero, a 14-year-old boy secondary school student who died while helping fire fighters tackle a blaze on a mountain in 1988.

Mr Sun subsequently deleted the post on the Weibo social network, but the Hong Kong herbal tea shop chain JDB revived the controversy in April 2015, when it promised in its own Weibo post to give 100,000 tins of herbal tea to Mr Sun if he were ever to open a barbeque shop.

The Daxing district people’s court in Beijing ordered Mr Sun and JDB to make public apologies on five consecutive days, and pay mental compensation of one yuan (about 13 cent) to the plaintiff Qiu Shaohua, who is the brother of Qiu Shaoyun.

The court said such comments had “a negative influence, had harmed public sentiment and undermined public interests, and had caused Qiu’s family psychological damage,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

The court said the posting caused public harm because “Qiu’s sacrifice and patriotic spirit are widely acknowledging in Chinese society”.

Tales of revolutionary era heroes like Qiu Shaoyun are common but there is growing scepticism among a younger generation.

The classic heroes include “Iron Man Wang”, who was famous for digging for oil with his bare hands, and who once jumped into a cement mixer and used his body to mix cement to stop the machine from freezing.

Others include Lei Feng, a People’s Liberation Army icon who would wash his friends’ socks and cut their hair for free, devoting his life to good works until his life he died aged just 22 when he was hit by a telegraph pole knocked over by a reversing army truck that he was directing.

In recent years, there has been a Lei Feng revival, with a campaign urging Chinese people to “learn from Lei Feng”, just as Mao Zedong had exhorted the masses.

Earlier this year a historian was successfully sued for defamation after he questioned a story about the “Five Heroes on Langya Mountain”, who, according to the Communist Party narrative, jumped off a cliff to avoid capture by the imperial Japanese army during the second World War.