Wallposters have appeared here suggesting that the preserved body of the late Chairman Mao Tse-tung be removed from his memorial hall, which has been mysteriously closed for the last two weeks.
A poster written by the "Human Rights Alliance" said keeping Mao's body in public view was "feudal idolatry" and should cease since the hall itself was enough to preserve his memory.
The posters provided the most lively addition in some weeks to the controversy swirling around the late Chinese leader, who is still officially praised while his policies are swiftly being dismantled.
One poster suggesting removal of the body took up dozens of pages. A second, shorter poster listed, along with the removal, 18 other demands for reform, including free elections and, for the first time in a wallposter, better relations with Moscow.
"Thoroughly root out spiritual superstition, as well as the worship of idols," the Human Rights Alliance poster said; "Move away the crystal sarcophagus and change the building to a memorial hall for Chairman Mao."
The huge Mao memorial hall, which dominates the southern end of Peking's Tienanmen Square, closed about Dec. 24.
Chinese officials told American journalists who asked to visit the hall that it was being repaired, but said they did not know exactly what had to be fixed.
Wallposters attacking Mao and the efforts in his last years to purge several veteran colleagues from power began appearing in November, but tailed off after Party Vice Chiarman Teng Hsiaoping, who was purged twice by Mao, praised the late chairman publicly and cautioned against letting criticism go too far.
Some posters also attacked Mao's critics. His memory still seems to serve as a rallying point for Chinese who oppose large purchases of foreign technology, worker pay bonuses and other pragmatic measures introduced by Mao's successors.
Some long-time Peking residents suggested today that Mao's body may be deteriorating badly, thus prompting the closing of the hall to visitors. Residents who visited the hall saveral times said his face had been gradually turning an unnatural color.
In late 1976, shortly after Mao's death and the purge of his wife and a group of party dogmatists called the Gang of Four, an independent Hong Kong newspaper with good Chinese sources reported that preservation experts had not been able to begin work on his body right after his death. A poiltical struggle over how his remains were to be handled intervened.
The Hong Kong newspaper, Ming Pao, said the Chinese ambassador in Hanoi at that time had cabled Peking with advice from Vietnamese preservation experts who had worked on the body of the late Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh.
The controversy over Mao's body and the few new wallposter appeals for political reform come two days before the third anniversary of the death of Premier Chou En-lai. Chou is the real hero of Teng and the other pragmatic men who now run China, but an outpouring of popular grief for Chou in April 1976 touched off a major riot and the Chinese government has tried to gently restrain celebrations of his memory.
Earlier this week guards chained off the monument to revolutionary martyrs in Tienanmen Square, the site of the 1976 riot. A few people had taped small bills worth about $7 each to the tall monument as contributions toward a memorial hall for Chou. Today's poster voiced the same request.
Shortly after Chou died, ppeking announced that his body had been cremated and his ashes scattered over the countryside according to his wish.
Today, the chain had been removed and about 40 to 50 people were scattered around the monument base. Some looked at two or three gaudy paper wreathes placed by youths. Others read and copied down poems to Chou's memory that had been pasted on the monument base.
Today, three American reporters reading wallposters along what is called Democracy Wall met a youth who said he was a member of the Alliance. He said he was 16 years old and a student at the Peking No. 1 middle school, but that the rest of the group were older university students and workers.
He claimed to have some inside information on party Politburo concern about the poster campaign, perhaps the result of family connections with high party officials enjoyed by many intellectual youth here.
He did not speak English well and seemed nervous about speaking Chinese with foreigners as crowds quickly gather around.
In the first wallposter call ever for a change in Peking's hostility to Moscow, the Human Rights Alliance said: "The Sino-Soviet split in ideology and controversy has already lost its objective base. The citizens demand a relaxation in the attacks on revisionism. The Soviet Union is a socialist country and the Soviet people are a great people. China and the United States are now friends. China and Japan are now friends. The people of China would like to be friends with the Soviet Union. We demand a beginning of talks with the Soviet government."
The poster also demanded an end to government secrecy, release of all prisoners of conscience, better housing, a basic grain allowance for peasants, the right to refuse farm work, published statistics on all important government programs and free elections of all party and state leaders.