Chinese cryptocurrency media companies are boycotting an ongoing blockchain conference after the organizer used a Chairman Mao impersonator to promote the event.
Dubbed the Bo'Ao Blockchain Forum for Asia (not to be confused with the Bo'Ao Forum), the two-day event in Hainan province is co-hosted by a Chinese blockchain and cryptocurrency media firm BiKuai.org and kicked off Monday as scheduled.
Yet within hours of the start, a video emerged on Chinese social networks Weibo and WeChat showing an actor hired by the event organizer mimicking China's most famous leader Mao Zedong in a welcome speech.
The actor, named Xu Guoxiang, said:
"In the name of Mao Zedong, I'd like to say thank you to all the attendees today ... And I wish the event will be tremendously successful."
The video immediately went viral across Chinese social networks, although various reports and reposts of the video and event appear to have since been be censored by the state.
As the clip emerged, several Chinese blockchain media companies that were present at the event this morning, such as BTC123 and Jinse Finance, immediately blasted the organizer's conduct as legally questionable. They further called for a boycott of coverage of the event in an effort to eliminate any association with the Mao stunt over fears of a possible government backlash.
In 2007, China's Ministry of Commerce published a rule prohibiting commercial activities from making associations with high-level Chinese leaders, as such, commercial promotion using a leader's image, either directly or via impersonation, is not banned.
Following the wide criticism of the promotion, the event organizer BiKuai issued a statement suggesting that the issue arose due to a lack of communication with the actor prior to the event.
"The excellent speech made by Xu was largely appreciated by the audience ... and shall only represent his own opinion, not that of the event organizer," the statement reads.
Mao on yuan note image via Shutterstock