The Newest Harvard Hero?

Chinese Communists Try to Spread 'Legend of Lei Feng'

A few "followers" of a dead Chinese revolutionary have reportedly joined the chorus of voices telling Harvard to clean up its act.

In its latest wave of propaganda, the People's Republic of China is trying to push the message that the ideals of Chinese communism are gaining strength in America, and particularly at Harvard.

The People's Daily in its July 18 overseas edition published an article titled, "Learning from Lei Feng at Harvard," implying that American Harvard students are rushing to embrace the socialist consciousness of one China's most famous heroes.

Scholars at the John K. Fairbank Center for East Asian Research loosely translated excepts of the article, purportedly written by a Harvard student named Lou Sheng. No Harvard student by that name exists.

"For the past few years, the Harvard campus has not been as beautiful as it used to be," the article read. "Garbage could be seen every-where, and it smelled. When old students see this they talk about it and all they can do is sigh."

"So about 10 newly arrived students from China saw this and thought about Lei Feng," the article continued. "They decided to clean the campus on their spare time. They decided this would be better than going to see a movie or going shopping."

The article goes on to describe American students and professors joining the Chinese in their voluntary labor. It also describes the Americans' awed admiration of Lei. According to the article, one professor named "Hemo"--who also does not exist--tearfully asks the Chinese students for a photograph of Lei.

"The spirit of Lei Feng has come to Harvard," the article ends.

Lawrence Sullivan, a research associate at theFairbank center, said that since the article wasaimed at an overseas audience, it appears to betrying to tell Chinese students in the UnitedStates to remain loyal to the existing Communistregime.

"Harvard has sort of become the center of theChinese dissident community," Sullivan said. Hesaid he believes the article is striking againstleaders of the pro-democracy movement. Studentleader Wuer Kaixi was a visting undergraduate atHarvard last year, and dissident journalist LiuBinyan spent time here as a Nieman Fellow.

Andrea Worden, a Stanford doctoral candidate inChinese history, has been following the latest LeiFung campaign. She said the Chinese leadershipoften trots out Lei when it wants to impress uponits people the importance of public service andloyalty.

Worden said that the government is actingpartially in reaction to the international outragethat accompanied last year's massacre of studentdemonstrators in Tiananmen Square. She said thearticle implies that the world should notcriticize China, but learn from it.

Previous People's Daily reports have describednonexistent cults of Lei Feng at the United StatesMilitary Academy. Worden said one articledescribed Lei as one of the "five heroes" of WestPoint and quoted students as saying theirprofessors exhorted them to follow Lei's examplesof service.

Worden said she may have inadvertently sparkedthe latest, international Lei Feng campaign. On arecent trip to China she visited an exhibit inLei's hometown commemorating his life. Surprisedat how seriously the villagers took Lei, shehalf-jokingly wrote in the exhibit's comment book,"Lei Feng belongs to the world."

Since then, she said, the leadership has turnedher half-hearted compliment into an officialmotto. On several occasions the People's Daily hasquoted her as representing a growing number ofAmerican Lei-lovers.

Worden says she hopes few Chinese take herstatement at face value.

Sullivan dismisses any belief that the People'sDaily's propaganda will convince any Chinese thatLei has become the latest American pop icon. "Theonly people who take it seriously are theleadership," he said.

Gong Xiaoxia, a student from China at theGraduate School of Arts and Sciences, said shelaughed when she first read the article.

"It's really ridiculous," she said, adding,"that's not the first time they've publishedstupid and unreal articles in the People's Daily.