Mar 07, 2016 05:57 PM

Net Users Criticize NPC Delegates for Wearing Mao, Xi Badges

(Beijing) – Tibetan delegates to a meeting of China's top legislature have restarted a fashion that dates back to the era of Mao Zedong by wearing badges showing the faces of current and past leaders in what they say is a show of gratitude.

However, Internet users have reacted with unease, saying it appears to be a return to the cult of personality crafted by Mao and employed during the violent Culture Revolution (1966-76).

The National People's Congress (NPC) deputies from the Tibetan Autonomous Region in the far west of the country each wore two badges when they attended the opening session of the legislature's annual meeting on March 5.

One badge showed a smiling Xi Jinping, head of the Communist Party, talking to a Tibetan woman.

The other showed the busts of Xi and his four predecessors as top leaders of the party and country, Mao; Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader who launched China's reform and opening; Jiang Zemin, who led the party from 1989 to 2002; and Hu Jintao, the party's leader from 2002 to 2012. The flag of China appears in the background of the second badge.

The delegates got the badges last year on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibetan government, said Gesang Zhuoga, an NPC deputy from a rural village in the region's capital, Lhasa. She said they decided to wear the round pins at this year's "lianghui," or "two sessions" of the NPC and the top government advisory body.

Gesang, who told state media she is the woman in the first badge, said the delegates wanted to wear the pins to show their gratitude to the party's top leaders for the changes made in Tibet, particularly in the past three years.

She said the region lifted 100,000 people out of poverty last year as a result of support from the central government.

"Posters similar to the two badges are now hanging in every office, home and public squares in Tibet," Gesang said.

However, many Internet users said the badges, which are similar to ones worn during the Cultural Revolution, were a reminder of a period that saw the country brought to the brink of collapse.

One person wrote on Sina Weibo, China's take on Twitter, that the nation has moved past reminders of the cult of personality. "As such, we should never allow the worship of an individual to become a fashion again," he wrote.

Another blogger worried the badges might become de rigueur again. "If they are not told to stop doing this, other delegates could follow suit next year," he wrote.

(Rewritten by Li Rongde)

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