The recent wave of Omicron infections in China has caused numerous deaths, many of whom were renowned artists, actors, opera singers, film directors, and writers and had ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Actor Who Played Mao Zedong Dies
Actor Zhang Mu, 92, who played Mao Zedong in many CCP films, died in Beijing on Christmas Day. Zhang was the director of the China Opera and Dance Drama Theatre Opera troop and a calligrapher.
Zhang was born in 1930 and joined the CCP revolutionary force in northeastern China at the age of 16. When he was 21, he joined the CCP’s southern art troop as an opera singer. He had roles in many CCP propaganda films, including the notorious “Peasant Takes a Wife” about two young people in the countryside disobeying the old traditions; and “The White-Haired Girl,” which was an adaptation of a folk story about a white-haired fairy turning into a peasant girl filled with hatred toward a landlord. In 1963, Zhang was transferred to China Opera and Dance Drama Theatre in Beijing and played Mao Zedong in the opera “Wei Baqun,” depicting a bloodthirsty Red Army general.
On Dec. 16, Peking opera artist Song Changrong, also known as Song Baoguang, died at the age of 87. Song was a member of the Jiangsu provincial rubber-stamp legislature and the deputy director of Jiangsu provincial Association of Stage Performers.
On Dec. 17, Ren Jun, a Peking opera performer praised by first-generation CCP leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, died at the age of 103 in Beijing.
On Dec. 18 at 1 a.m., 40-year-old Peking opera performer Chu Lanlan died. Chu was the founder of New Peking Opera. She started performing in CCP propaganda plays when she was 8 years old. Her most famous role was in the opera “Red Detachment of Women,” which was a “model opera” during the Cultural Revolution. In recent years, the CCP has been pushing it onto stages overseas, including Lincoln Center, as part of its “grand overseas propaganda” scheme.
On Dec. 20 at 10:40 p.m., Cheng Jinghua, a famous Peking opera singer at the Yunnan Provincial Peking Opera Theater, died in Kunming city at the age of 94. Cheng was the niece of Cheng Jianqiu, the iconic Peking opera artist who specialized in playing female roles. During the Cultural Revolution, Cheng Jianhua performed in the Chinese Communist Party’s “revolutionary opera” titled “The Legend of the Red Lantern.”
On Dec. 22 at 2:30 a.m., Yu Yuheng, a renowned Peking opera artist, educator, and founding principal of the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, died in Beijing at the age of 98.
On Dec. 22, Peking Opera singer Yu Yuheng died in Bejing at the age of 98.
Sichuan Opera performer Xiong Yingzheng died on Dec. 23 at the age of 76 in Chengdu.
Peking Opera singers Hou Menglan and Zhao Zhiyuan died on Dec. 23 and 24, respectively.
Screenwriters and Directors
On Dec. 19, Sichuan-style play theorist, screenwriter, and director Xia Yang died at the age of 101. Xia joined the “revolutionary work” in May 1949 and served as a CCP agent. In 1950, Xia went to Sichuan as a representative of the CCP red army and became a director at the Sichuan Play House.
On Dec. 19, Chen Jingliang, former director and CCP secretary of China Film Archive and China Film Art Research Center, died in Beijing at the age of 76. Chen compiled Selected Chinese Films in 100 Years, which included a lot of CCP propaganda films.
Screenwriter Yang Lin died on Dec. 21 in Henan Province at the age of 60. Yang wrote “Red Flag Canal,” a propaganda play, in the 1960s. It tells the story of how Chinese people, guided by Mao Zedong thought, fought with nature. Because it fits the CCP’s rhetoric of fighting with heaven, earth, and man, the play was later adapted into a TV series and “broke CCTV ratings.” Yang was called a “first class screenwriter” and “top talent in the nationwide culture and propaganda system.”
On Dec. 21, film director Wang Jingguang died at the age of 54.
Professor at Bejing Film University and screenwriter Ni Zhen died on Dec. 22 at the age of 84.
On Dec. 23, renowned director Shang Yansheng died of a heart attack at the age of 66. His family members confirmed that Shang was infected with COVID-19 prior to the heart attack.
On Dec. 24, Lu Xiaoguang, the director of a popular, long-running TV family drama, died at the age of 76. The family drama started in 2000 and has 4,000 episodes, including content defaming Falun Gong, a mind-body practice persecuted by the CCP since 1999. Lu was the director of the drama series for 22 years.
On Dec. 20, actor Fu Zucheng died at the age of 82. Fu was in the cast of the CCP’s 1979 propaganda movie “The Little Flower.”
Li Yanzhen, an actor, Liuzi-style opera performer, and CCP member, died on Dec. 21 at the age of 80 in Jinan.
Beijing Film Studio actress Li Changle died on Dec. 23 at the age of 84.
On Dec. 24, CCP member and actor Zheng Rong died at the age of 98. He appeared in CCP propaganda films, including “Thunder Storm (Lei Yu)” and “Long March of the Red Army.”
On Dec. 3, composer, actor, and CCP member An Zhishun passed away at the age of 90. He contributed his music to an educational series on CCP history.
Composer Ma Shengcai from Shaanxi Province died on Dec. 22 at the age of 93.
Jiangsu provincial Performing Arts Company Xi Opera composer Feng Shiming died on Dec. 23 at the age of 78 in Nanjing city.
On Dec. 1, Lu Zhuguo, a member of the Chinese Writers Association and former deputy director of “BaYi File Studio,” died in Beijing at the age of 94. He has written many novels, which were adapted into films, praising the CCP. Some of the films were known to generations of Chinese people, such as “Battle on Shangganling Mountain (1956)” about the Korean War, “Sparkling Red Star (1974),” a children’s film depicting a revolutionary family’s experience in the CCP Red Army, and “On the Mountain of Tai Hang (2005),” a film about the CCP’s role during the Japanese invasion of China in World War II.
On Dec. 17, 68-year-old writer Li Mingsheng died in Beijing. He wrote a propaganda documentary on the Changzheng rocket launch.
Zhao Qing, a famous dancer and daughter of the legendary actor Zhao Dan, died in Beijing on Dec. 24 at the age of 87. The official death announcement said that Zhao Qing was a “model CCP member.” Her son wrote about Zhao Qing’s sudden death, saying, “My mother felt unwell, as if her lungs were burnt, and she died really quickly.”
Other Art Forms
On Dec. 19, Wang Xizhong, a nationally top-rated makeup artist and China Film Group Corporation retired official, died at the age of 94. Wang was the makeup artist for actors who played CCP leaders.
On Dec. 19, film artist and photographer Luo Dean (Luo Dan) died in Beijing at the age of 83.
On Dec. 24, actor, Cantonese crosstalk (Xiang Sheng) artist, and CCP member Yang Da died at the age of 87.
Instrumentalist Sun Guisheng died at the age of 85 on Dec. 24.
Artist and Guangdong Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Tang Xiaoming died on Dec. 24 at the age of 83.
Xiao Lusheng and Ning Haizhong contributed to this report.