Sina.com, a popular Chinese Internet portal, has seen more than 18,000 posts from netizens opposing the auction of late Chairman Mao Zedong's portrait.
After the website published the news that Huachen Auction Company will begin the bidding for Mao's portrait on June 3, thousands went online expressing hopes that the government authority will end the auction, Saturday's China Daily reported.
The original model for the Mao painting that hung over high through the 1950s on Beijing's Tiananmen Rostrum, the symbol of the China's Communist revolution, is expected to fetch 1 million to 1.2 million yuan (120,000-150,000 U.S. dollars).
"I strongly oppose the auction of Chairman Mao's portrait because it is neither a mere piece of artistic work nor a commercial activity. Mao Zedong is the spirit of our great nation, " an anonymous person said on the Internet.
"How dare they do such a thing! If they sold Mao's portrait today, they will sold Tiananmen Rostrum the other day." another person said.
The portrait was painted by Zhang Zhenshi, known as the best portraitist in China specialized in the painting of Mao. He was among more than 30 painters invited from around the country to create a new portrait of Mao to mark the first anniversary of the People's Republic of China in 1950.
Mao, the founder of the People's Republic of China, was born in 1893 and passed away in 1976.
Mei Ligang, a spokesman with the Beijing Auction House, was quoted as saying that the sale is open to both Chinese and foreign bidders, an act regarded by many as of irreverence to the late leader.
Some netizens against it suggested that a China's museum should collect the historical portrait. "The portrait is worth far more than its monetary value in terms of art and history," Chen Lusheng, a researcher from the China National Museum of Fine Arts, was quoted as saying.
Articles relating to Mao have been popular at auctions. In 2003, an oil painting of Mao by Dong Xiwen was auctioned for 220,000 yuan (27,000 dollars).