The remarks were made by Bi in early April at a private dinner and were not intended for broadcast. However a video of Bi singing songs from an ironic play and making satirical remarks about Mao emerged online shortly after. The clip went viral and earned 100,000 comments within an hour.
Bi used his social media account to quickly apologise for the remarks.
“I feel guilty and sorry for my comments which left a negative impact on society. I hereby offer to the public my deepest regrets. As a public figure, I have learned my lesson and will observe self-discipline,” he said in a Weibo posting.
He was previously stripped of his role as ambassador for education.
However that seems not to be enough for the Chinese authorities, who are in the midst of a campaign to make examples of celebrities who indulge in inappropriate behaviour. Those punished to date have largely been involved in drug use or the clients of prostitutes.
According to a statement by the State Administration of Press, Publishing, Radio, Film and Television, authorities regard Bi’s transgression as “more serious than general misconduct.” It ordered CCTV to “seriously handle” the case.
Presenters and broadcasters have already recently been warned to stick to “Socialist core values.”
Chinese authorities are somewhat ambivalent about Mao. He is regarded as a national hero and his portrait still looms over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. However, his ‘Cultural Revolution’ process, where intellectuals were hounded into exile in the countryside and millions of people starved to death is now largely seen as a mistake.