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Xi's cave home hype not good for him: President's roommate

Press Trust of India  |  Beijing 

Chinese officials' attempts to convert the cave home in a village where spent his seven years into a living shrine has drawn rare criticism from his roommate who believes the hype is creating a personality cult and doing more harm than good to the Chinese

Lei Pingsheng, 68, now a retired shared the cave dormitories at the impoverished Liangjiahe village in province with Xi during the Cultural Revolution of former Chinese in 1969 during which the privileged urban youth were sent to rural areas to work in the countryside to get rid of their pro-bourgeois thinking.

Between 12 to 18 million young city dwellers, sometimes against their will, were sent to villages between 1950 and 1976 to work with local peasants, according to Hong Kong-based South Morning Post.

Xi, 65, son of former Vice who fell foul with Mao over ideological differences and suffered purges and imprisonment.

Lei came from the same elite Bayi High School as Xi. Both his father and Xi's father were purged during the Cultural Revolution, so going to the countryside as an educated youth was inevitable because they were politically discriminated against, Lei said in an interview to the Post.

Since he took over power in 2012, Xi has emerged as the most powerful after Mao heading the ruling Communist Party, the and the military.

He will continue as China's top for life as the Constitution was amended this year doing away with the two-term limit for the

After he became the leader, China's officialdom aided by the state-run media has gone on overdrive in projecting Xi's image, often drawing criticism of promoting personality cult akin to the days of Mao.

Tourists from across the country under the pretext of learning from the president's formative years have flocked to Liangjiahe. The village attracts about 13000 Chinese Communist tourists a day as it is being projected as the cave room, a living shrine of Xi and the life he led in early years.

Lei said the hype had become too great and cooling it down was the right thing for the

"I think the [publicity about Liangjiahe] is too heated and should be cooled down it would be positive and good for Xi Jinping," he was quoted as saying in the report.

"The residence is not higher than that of and Some cadres who didn't know may exaggerate what happened in their accounts," Lei said.

According to a guide at the village, Liangjiahe has hired about 40 guides, mostly young women, to tell visitors stories of how Xi never lost his determination to join the despite his applications being repeatedly rejected because his father had been purged in the Cultural Revolution, and of how he arrived with heavy luggage packed with books and studied late into the night under a dim light.

"Nothing strengthens a man's character better than hardship," Xi wrote in an article published by state-run agency in 2012.

"The seven years of hardship in rural areas is a great experience for me. After that, whenever I encounter difficulties, I will tell myself that if you could get things done then, you must be able to get things down now," he said.

Lei, his cave dormitory roommate, was close to the president. Now living in Beijing, he was interviewed in a book published last year by the Central Party School on Xi's early years as a "sent-down" youth.

The book named 'Xi Jinping's Seven Years as an Educated Youth' has become a must-read in ideological classes for local party officials.

Lei said neither him nor Xi could have imagined that one day Xi would become the top leader of China, yet he believed those early experiences prepared the President for his future career.

"Xi was tough and willing to take on hard tasks. Unlike me I'm just not the material to be an official," Lei said.

Asked what he remembered vividly about their days in Liangjiahe, Lei said, "tiredness".

"It was so tiring to do all that manual labour," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, August 09 2018. 17:55 IST