Beijing (AFP) - A gargantuan gold-painted statue of Communist China's founding father Mao Zedong has been erected in open countryside by a group of capitalists at a cost of 3 million yuan ($460,000), reports said.
The statue towers some 37 metres (121 feet) over empty fields in the central province of Henan and shows the man who ruled China with an iron grip for nearly three decades seated in thoughtful repose, his hands crossed.
Its construction was reportedly funded by several local entrepreneurs and finished in December after nine months of labour, the HMR.cn portal said on Monday.
Despite being blamed for millions of deaths, Mao is still widely revered in China, where the Communist leadership tightly controls public discussion of history and seeks to use his legacy to shore up its support.
China's current President Xi Jinping has praised Mao as a "great figure" and revived some of his rhetoric and centralisation of power, while following the party's 1980s conclusion that he also made "mistakes".
Some Internet users criticised the statue, pointing out its location in Henan, the centre of a famine in the late 1950s resulting from Mao's economic policies estimated to have killed as many as 40 million people.
"Have you forgotten about the Great Famine, building that?" asked one poster on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Others questioned the statue's resemblance to the Great Helmsman, who also launched the decade-long Cultural Revolution that saw violence and destruction nationwide.
But many heaped praise on the statue, with one Weibo user simply saying: "Badass".