According to the official story
, Lei was a 22-year-old soldier who died after a telephone pole fell on his head while on duty. Following his death, his diary was reportedly discovered, full of paeans to the Communist Party and Mao himself, and Lei was adopted as a model comrade.
“Parents are dear to their children,” one entry is said to have read, “but they can’t compare with Chairman Mao.”
Mao designated March 5 as “Lei Feng Day
” in 1963, and it has been marked as such ever since, even as questions remain over the veracity of Lei’s story and how much of his posthumously-published diary was written by propaganda officials.
This year, the KFC branch in Lei’s hometown of Changsha, the capital of the central Chinese province of Hunan, took things a step further. According to Xinhua, on March 5, the chicken restaurant reopened with the walls adorned with excerpts from Lei’s diary and cartoon depictions of him.
“Lei Feng has been the role model for generations of Chinese. As the KFC (outlet) in his hometown, we will spare no effort to promote his spirit,” He Min, general manager for KFC’s Hunan area, told the news agency.
He said KFC plans to promote “the Lei Feng spirit” in 250 other outlets in Hunan province, and “encourage its staff to learn from the role model.”
KFC is operated in China by Yum China, which was spun off
from US parent Yum Brands in 2016. Representatives of the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the Lei Feng promotion.
While immensely popular in China, KFC, as an icon of US fast food culture, has occasionally borne the brunt of anti-American sentiment. In 2016, during a dispute between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, police had to be deployed to some KFC branches as they were targeted by protests
around the country.