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China Champions Selfless Patriot to Combat Social Woes

  • Stephanie Ho

A member of the Chinese military forces gives a free medical check to a man as community service during the "Learning from Lei Feng Day" in a central square in Shanghai, March 5, 2012.

A member of the Chinese military forces gives a free medical check to a man as community service during the "Learning from Lei Feng Day" in a central square in Shanghai, March 5, 2012.

China's National People's Congress opens its annual legislative session in Beijing Monday, which is also the same day Mao designated "Lei Feng Day," to honor an an orphaned soldier and altruistic hero who died 50 years ago.

This year's session of the National People's Congress is taking place amidst renewed government exhortations for people to study Lei Feng, a humble young man Mao turned into an icon of model behavior, whose only goal was to serve the party.

Congress delegate and lieutenant general, Zhao Gang, says he admires Lei Feng's love of country and mankind, qualities that outshine the actual things he did.



"We can see great things from what Lei Feng did, even though they were just small things. It's just like the reflection of the sun in a drop of water," said Zhao.

Last year, 27 year old Zhang Liangliang and his friends made a movie where an ordinary guy tries to become a superhero by emulating Lei Feng.

"People born in the 1960s or 1970s, perhaps they believe in Lei Feng. Now, though, young people born in the 1980s or 1990s doubt that he was able to actually do all the selfless good deeds that he is credited with," said Zhang.

The film Lei Feng Xia (or Lei Feng Man) has been seen by millions of people online. Zhang says his favorite part is when Lei Feng struggles to clean up his neighborhood.

"He uses a spatula to scrape off advertisements that were stuck on the ground. I've done that before. It's like someone comes to glue the ad there, then another person comes to clean it up, then someone puts something else on top of the same spot," Zhang noted.

As modern Chinese society grows wealthier, official media bemoan a national decline in morality because of things like official corruption and public apathy.

Guangxi delegate Wang Aiqing says this is why China still needs Lei Feng's spirit of selflessness.

"People these days are only pursuing success, fame, their own interests and money, which means they're not really well-grounded," said Wang. "They need to go back to a good starting point."

Lei Feng died in 1962, at the age of 21. A complete edition of writings attributed to him was recently published, as part of more than 100 new Lei Feng-themed publications planned for this year that include poems, speeches, letters and analyses of his life.

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