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17,000 people pay homage to Mao's Mausoleum on his birth anniversary
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Thirty one years on after his death, public reverence for late Chinese leader Mao Zedong remains strong. More than 17,000 people visited the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Beijing on Dec. 26, his 114th birthday anniversary.

The Mausoleum on the Tian'anmen Square received has been receiving some 5,000 visitors each day in the morning. It is closed in the afternoon for a large scale interior decoration.

However, the memorial hall was open for a full day Wednesday to receive the increased number of pilgrims, including Li Min, Mao's elder daughter, and Mao Xinyu, Mao's grandson.

The Maos braved the chilly winter air and arrived at 8:40 am. They bowed to the statue of Mao at the north hall and then paid a respect to Mao's relique.

There are also regular visitors outside the Mao family. Zhao Juxiao, a train driver in his 50s from suburban Beijing, came at around 6 am. "I came here to pay respect to Mao's remains every year," he said.

"Mao Zedong was a great man. When I saw him, I was shaken to tears," said Gao Fei, a 26-year-old girl from the eastern Province of Shandong.

Larif Hajer and her husband Ridha, from Tunisia, have been in China for 11 days. "I've read him on books. Mao was a great chairman, a great man. We respect him," she said.

Li Boyun, in his 80s, was probably the eldest waiting in the five long lines. Wearing two Mao' badges, Li said, "I came to see Chairman Mao every Sept. 9 and Dec. 26." Sept. 9 is Mao's birthday.

A lady surnamed Wei came all the way from eastern Hangzhou city, accompanying her son to pay reverence to the great leader.

"I hope my child can be familiar with our country's history, especially how it struggled to become prosperous and strong. I told my son it was Chairman Mao that led the Chinese nation to the way of prosperity."

In Mao's home village of Shaoshan in central Hunan Province, people organized host of activities to commemorate Mao, including music and firework performances and an exhibition to fete tourists who come to pay tribute.

In northwestern Shaanxi Province, where Mao used to lead his army to fight Japanese invaders and the Kuomintang troops, locals swarmed to exhibitions featuring his revolutionary times.

Mao died in 1976, aged 83.

(Xinhua News Agency December 27, 2007)

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