To Xi or not to Xi? Madame Tussauds launches in Beijing

To Xi or not to Xi? Madame Tussauds launches in Beijing
Chinese actress Carina Lau (R) laughs after she unveiled her wax figure at Madame Tussauds Beijing during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Beijing on May 29, 2014.

BEIJING - Waxworks company Madame Tussauds on Thursday launched its latest outpost in Beijing, with models of Chinese political leaders conspicuous by their absence.

US President Barack Obama was on display, along with a grim-looking Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Even Karl Marx, founding father of Communism, was included.

But there was no sign of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, or current Chinese President Xi Jinping, nor of a Chamber of Horrors, one of the most popular sections of the original attraction in London.

Craig Dunkerley, Asia and Europe head of openings for Merlin Entertainments, the firm that owns Madame Tussauds, told AFP that it was "still in discussion" with Chinese authorities over including domestic political figures.

"There are leaders from across the world, like Obama, but no Chinese leaders," he said. "We're opening the attraction with a certain amount of figures, we will then add more figures as we go forward.

"So we're in discussion for different things in the future that I can't tell you about for the moment, I'm afraid." Past leaders - particularly Mao - remain sensitive issues in China, which has experienced tumultuous episodes since the Communist Party took power in 1949 including famine and the Cultural Revolution, and authorities closely control discussion of its history.

The Beijing attraction includes international stars such as actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, and singers Madonna and Lady Gaga.

Among the Chinese figures portrayed are retired NBA star Yao Ming, the country's first astronaut Yang Liwei, and rock star Cui Jian.

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