Mao statue in China 'pulled down by authorities' after 120ft gold giant is mocked online

After achieving brief notoriety, the 120ft concrete and steel construction is reportedly no more

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The Independent Online

The Chinese authorities appear to have destroyed a giant gold statue of Mao Zedong after it became the subject of online mockery around the world.

The 120ft (37m) tall construction started to take shape around nine months ago, according to Chinese media reports, but unconfirmed photos circulating online on Friday appeared to show a huge chunk torn from its centre and a black sheet draped over its head.

Images of the almost-complete Chairman Mao, towering over fields in rural Henan province, went viral three days earlier after they appeared on a Chinese news website.

It's not known if the fact it became an international laughing stock had any role in the statue's demise. A website linked to the state-run People's Daily quoted local officials saying the project "was not registered or approved".

The statue was funded by local businessmen, and cost around 3 million yuan (£313,000). As its fame spread it met with some criticism, with farmers and villagers quoted as saying the money could have been spent better on education and other public services.

The exact location of the statue, in Tongxu county, was more or less the epicentre of a famine which killed millions in the late 1950s, partly as a result of Mao's policies.

Yet the leader is still revered as a hero by many Chinese citizens, including President Xi Jingping, who has previously praised the late dictator as a "great figure."