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China shuts Maoist website amid political scandal

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04:59 PM April 6th, 2012

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April 6th, 2012 04:59 PM

BEIJING—Chinese authorities ordered a leading pro-Maoist website shut down for one month starting Friday because of critical essays posted on it, the site’s founder said, amid the country’s worst high-level political crisis in years.

The move comes after the firing of a once high-flying official who promoted Mao Zedong-era songs and stories.

Han Deqiang, founder of the leftist website Utopia, said police ordered that it be shut down because of content that criticized the Communist Party, its leaders and an upcoming party congress.

“I expected this to happen. If they want to shut us down, it is their right. We exercise our right to express ourselves, they exercise their right,” Han said in a telephone interview.

Han is a vocal supporter of recently ousted Chongqing city Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, who strongly pushed a “Red Culture” campaign. The removal of Bo, considered a contender for a top job only months ago, was widely seen as a sign of divisive infighting.

The shutdown of the site appears to be part of wider censorship aimed at stifling discussion of Bo’s downfall, the highest-level political sacking in years.

Bo’s dismissal is yet to be fully explained and came after a top aide fled temporarily to a US consulate, apparently to seek asylum and in violation of party rules. It also came as the senior leadership is gearing up for a handover of power to a younger generation of leaders in the fall, always a period of intense political bargaining.

Websites such as Utopia oppose privatization of the economy and other Western-style reforms, and have sometimes been critical of China’s current leadership.

They also promote the achievements of Mao, who led a bloody two-decade-long revolution that ended with the establishment of Communist China in 1949 and held power until his death in 1976. His policies plunged the nation into years of famine and led to the deaths of tens of millions.

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