CHINA

China’s “Good Samaritan” turns Party into a laughing stock

Lei Feng is the Chinese Communist Party's favourite do-gooder. The late comrade has been unknowingly representing good behaviour since he died in 1962. Each year, a day is held to encourage his enviable virtues. But this year, the legend has been employed by one web user to make a mockery of the Chinese Communist Party; with his very own blog. Read more...

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Image from the Lei Feng Diary blog.

Lei Feng is the Chinese Communist Party's favourite do-gooder. The late comrade has been unwittingly representing good behaviour since his death in 1962. Each year, a day is held to encourage his enviable virtues. But this year, the legend has been employed by one web user to make a mockery of the Chinese Communist Party; with his very own blog.

The "Lei Feng Diary", which recounts the life of Feng as if he were still living in modern times, challenges the Party with blatantly satirical posts addressing everything from the Chinese military to the Oscars. The blog has proved highly popular; generating major traffic in the Chinese blogosphere since its launch on 25 Feb. 2010.

Lei Feng was a People's Liberation Army soldier who died at the age of 22. Feng became a widely-recognized icon of the Communist Party when in 1962, Mao Zedong initiated a national propaganda campaign that used his face and story to encourage thousands of Chinese youths to uphold the ideals of the Party. On "Learn from Lei Feng" day, celebrated in China on 5 March every year, Chinese youth is encouraged to participate in community events and emulate the supposedly selfless actions of the national hero.

“Everyone wants someone like Lei Feng around, but nobody wants to be him anymore”

BeiBei Wang is a graphic designer from Beijing.

I first heard about Lei Feng when I was in school. At the time, there was no official Lei Feng Day, but we always heard stories about him. We were told to be like him, act in his image, and try to learn things from his life. Once, one of my friends, an older girl, told me to clean a neighbour's house. She told me not to tell the neighbours we did it, but just to do it out of kindness, like Lei Feng. I was in kindergarten at the time.

I was told that ‘Leifeng shushu' [do-gooder] was a soldier. He was short, but he was always helping people without asking for anything in return. Somehow, as child, his story had a real impact on me. I think my school brought us to watch some documentary movie about him, although that was over 25 years ago, so I can't remember too clearly.

Nowadays in China, people mostly worship money; there are even old people in the street who will charge you money for giving you directions. No one cares about Lei Feng, it seems - I bet younger generations may not even know about him. I'm sure everyone wants someone like Lei Feng around, but nobody wants to be Lei Feng anymore. Some people think he is not smart, or simply too nice."

Lei Feng in his heyday, according to the CCP

"Learn from Lei Feng, Always Act for the People in Every Situation". Posted on Flickr by "threasuresthouhast", 28 May 2006.

"'Let's learn from Lei Feng!' Give up your seat in other words." Posted on Flickr by David W. Jackson on 5 Feb. 2010.

"Learn from Comrade Lei Feng!" Posted on Flickr by Jonathan Wing on 25 Feb. 2007.

Lei Feng in modern day, according to bloggers

Extracts from the Lei Feng Diary.

March 9, 17:58:

Last night, under the instruction of higher authorities, I watched the imperial USA's Oscar ceremony. Later, in the (Communist) Party group study session, I proclaimed in summary that: Throughout the entire ceremony, there was no large-scale singing and dancing or close-up magic performances like the ones the masses love to be entertained by. There were no songs sung in praise of the motherland and no text messaging [official text messages are often sent out to all mobile phone owners during national celebrations]. It was divorced from the people. And especially divorced from the people were those who received awards. They took the stage and only thanked family and team members, without even mentioning their nation. You should know that it was your nation that cultivated you! This was not a meeting of unity, much less a meeting of victory!"

Images from the Lei Feng Diary:

Lei Feng being visited by a Party member after he had been injured by a fellow member of People's Liberation Army who mistook him for an enemy.

"Just Feng It" - playing with the idea of Lei Feng as a modern hero that makes commercial endorsements.

Although Lei Feng was not well-known during his short life, Mao Zedong turned him into a widely-recognized icon of the Communist Party through a national propaganda campaign. Pictured here, with the man who turned him into a legend.

Lei Feng pictured with a telephone pole, much like the one, as the story goes, that killed him.

March 11, 22:00:

Yesterday, there was a man snatching guns, and I was injured in the process. The man's surname was Lee, and he was a leader in the Armed Forces Department. At the time, he was worried that I wasn't a member of the People's Liberation Army, so he took my gun to have a look at it. I guess it was also my fault for not clearly stating my work unit and causing a leader to misunderstand the situation. Everyone wants him to apologise to me, but I think the conflict was completely a matter of misunderstanding and doesn't involve an apology. When the leader came to visit me in the afternoon he said "but of course I'm willing to better the relationships between the army and the people." When I heard this, my heart was filled with joy."