Tibet is given giant statue of Mao

The statue of the late Chinese Communist leader weighs 35 tons, stands on a five-metre pedestal, and is the biggest Mao statue in China. It was a gift to the Tibetan town of Gonggar from Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, and the birthplace of Mao.

The statue was brought to the devoutly Buddhist region by road and will stand in the new 40,000-square-metre Changsha Square. The square and the statue, which took nine months to carve out of granite, will be unveiled to formally mark the 30th anniversary of Mao's death.

The official line is that in 1951, Mao and his comrades peacefully liberated Tibet. However, the crushing of subsequent unrest and the flight of the Dalai Lama into exile means many Tibetans still have an ambiguous relationship with Mao.

During the Cultural Revolution, which started 40 years ago this year and ended with Mao's death 10 years later, thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns were forced out of their temples and watched as their statues and sutras were defiled or burned.

Mao is still revered by many in China as a revolutionary icon and his portrait appears on the country's banknotes.

These days, however, the Communist Party is keen to distance itself from cults of personality, particularly after the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the official line on Mao is that he was "30 per cent good and 70 per cent bad".

People from Changsha donated £450,000 for the square, of which £34,000 was spent on the statue.

"To protect the statue, we attached a lightning rod and strengthened the base, so Chairman Mao can withstand earthquakes up to 5.5 on the Richter scale," a Communist official said.

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