MCA says response to Mao wallpaper too harsh, worries about China relations

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Visuals of the wallpaper bearing drawings of late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong and also depicting elements of communism have gone viral since yesterday.

MCA has expressed concern over the authorities’ reaction to a Penang restaurant that featured the caricature of communist revolutionary leader Mao Tse Tung, who is also the founder of the People’s Republic of China.

MCA vice-president Tan Teik Cheng said the wallpapers at the Hunan cuisine restaurant in Bukit Mertajam, which was raided yesterday, were only decorations and the reaction was too harsh and “sensitive”.

He said the police’s handling of the matter was unnecessary and could damage relations with China.

“I advise the authorities not to be too aggressive and to approach matters in a more friendly manner.

“At the same time, I also hope that netizens won’t turn the matter into a racial issue to avoid undermining racial harmony and also friendly relations between Malaysia and China,” he added.

The MCA bureau chief on China relations noted that the wife of the restaurant owner is from China.

Tan likened the Mao wallpaper at the restaurant to a Malaysian putting up a picture of prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman when opening a restaurant overseas.

He said this should not be regarded as an agenda to promote certain ideologies.

He also stressed that China and Malaysia have had good economic and trade relations.

“From 2013 until the first half of 2020, China had invested a total of RM9.1 billion in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia.

“China is also playing an active role in helping Malaysia combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Yesterday, police raided the Xiang Ge Li Li La Authentic Hunan restaurant in Bukit Mertajam and tore down its wallpapers bearing artwork resembling communist caricatures.

The 35-year-old woman who co-owns the restaurant with her 40-year-old husband had said the Chinese text on the poster was not promoting communism, but instead carried humorous slogans about food.

One slogan read: “Welcome my dear guest. The taste is fantastic! I like it very much. Please come again, my dear guest.”

Another slogan said: “There are many benefits after spending in our store – your romantic relationship will be successful, and you will pass your entrance exam!”

Investigations revealed that the wallpaper was only put up recently.

Police took them down yesterday.

The artwork included a caricature of Mao Zedong and caricatures of soldiers in communist uniform.

In the artwork, they were carrying banners with Chinese characters that read “foodie” and “recipe”.

The woman named Joey was born and raised in Hunan, China. She married a Malaysian and they decided in 2016 to start a restaurant business together in Penang where they have settled.

The restaurant, Xiang Ge Li Li La Authentic Hunan, serves food from Joey’s birthplace.

She said the designs were inspired by similar restaurants in China and thought they would be an attraction for photos on social media.

“When I first saw this kind of design, I found it interesting and funny and thought it would attract customers (to take photographs and post online).

“When I started my own business, I decided to use this as a theme, but I really didn’t expect that I would get in trouble with the law four years later,” she added.

Communist materials banned

All communist-linked materials are banned in Malaysia due to its bitter history with the communist insurgency.

“Perhaps the authorities found the graphics to be sensitive – I really didn’t know that they cannot be put up on the wall,” Joey said.

The Bukit Mertajam restaurant is the couple’s second, and they have another in Georgetown.

Following the raid yesterday, she said five employees were brought to the police station for questioning.

Joey said police are also looking to question her, but she has yet to give her statement as she is under home quarantine due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I never thought that creative stickers would result in this,” she added.

During the raid yesterday, police tore down the wallpapers and confiscated them.

Plates purportedly carrying Mao’s face were also seized.

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Reportedly, the workers were questioned by police on whether they had been implanted with communist ideology.

Police are investigating the matter under Section 47 of the Societies Act for the publication of propaganda related to an unlawful society.

It carries a punishment of up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to RM5,000 or both.