A gala event in California commemorating the two-year "Long March" by the Chinese communist army that ended 80 years ago has sparked an outcry among the Chinese emigre community in the city, residents told RFA on Monday.
The Oct. 8 gala event sparked protests outside the venue in San Gabriel, with protesters hitting out at the celebration of a brutal and dictatorial regime.
Protesters held up placards that read "Don’t Celebrate Communism" and "Stop Torture" outside the Mission Playhouse, local media reported.
Campaigners also called on the city government, which owns the venue, to cancel the event, but its lawyers said such action would be illegal, and wasn't an option.
A protester surnamed Wang said he is opposed to any celebration of "red culture" from the era of late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
"I am against their red performance because I think that this is all a con," Wang said. "The Long March was a rout, but the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party makes it out to be a heroic tale."
"The whole thing is a fake, all 12,500 kilometers of it," he said. "I have been in the U.S. a long time, so I know about this."
"It's fake, evil, and totally at odds with the founding principles and the national values of the United States," he said.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Yu Wensheng agreed.
"Whichever way you look at it, they were running away on the Long March," Yu said. "The wound up running to [the northern province of] Shaanxi."
"Now the Long March is made out to be this wonderful thing, but it shouldn't be," Yu said. "Chinese people living overseas probably know what proper freedom and democracy look like, and about the actual end result of the Long March, which was a dictatorial regime."
"Perhaps they also still remember the fear, the pain and hardship they suffered during the past six decades, and maybe that's why they don't want this party to celebrate it."
While they refused to cancel the even, the city council opted not to waive the rental fee for the venue, however, forcing the American Chinese Culture Association to pay U.S.$2,380 to rent the playhouse to stage the free event.
The association had to pay a further U.S.$2,952 to cover additional policing on the night of the event, the Pasadena Star newspaper reported.
Police had already been called to intervene in a heated discussion between a protester and an association member in a consultation meeting ahead of the performance last week, it said.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping is marking the anniversary with high-profile exhibits in national museums, displaying battered items of uniform worn by the Red Army's peasant soldiers and other memorabilia.
"From 1934 to 1936, an 80,000-strong Red Army force took part in the epic trek, which laid an important foundation for the Communist victory in the war," ran the official media description.
But it added that more than three quarters of the soldiers died or were reported missing during the march.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong's Sunbeam Theater staged a Cantonese opera celebrating the life of Mao, in a production marking the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, sparking widespread criticism over the "glorification" of one of the bloodiest leaders in modern history.
And last month, authorities in Australia's two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, canceled planned concerts commemorating Mao's death after Chinese Australians complained the content was insensitive.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.