Chen Kaige gets controversial "Green Chinese" nomination

Updated: 2006-10-31 21:45

Chinese director Chen Kaige, whose movie "The Promise" allegedly caused environmental damage to a pristine Shangri-la lakeside during shooting, has been nominated for the country's "Green Chinese" award.

In May, producers of the 340-million-yuan (US$42 million) film were fined 90,000 yuan (US$11,250) for destroying vegetation near Bigu Lake in Shangri-la county in China's southwest Yunnan province, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

The "Green Chinese" annual award is co-sponsored by seven government departments and supported by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which selects five to ten Chinese who have made great contribution to protecting the environment.

"Sometimes a negative example can serve as a warning," said Wang Panpu, deputy director of the committee, when asked whether the nomination of Chen, who picked up an Oscar nomination for directing "Farewell, My Concubine", contradicted the objectives of the award.

After the award's organizing committee announced a list of 253 nominations, which included Chen and Chinese television director Zhang Jizhong, Chinese Internet users posted furious comments on-line.

Many described it as an outrageous irony in China's efforts to protect the environment. "How can Chen be nominated? If a bad example like him can be nominated, then traitors should be nominated as heroes in the same sense," read one comment on

The award allowed Internet users to submit their own nominations and the committee checked to see if the nominees were eligible, according to a spokeswoman for the organizing committee. "Chen was nominated by more than 200 Internet voters," she said.

"Most Internet users wrote that Chen was a negative example and if it wasn't for his movie, there wouldn't have been such a huge debate about environment protection," she added.

"We fully respect the Internet user's nominations because we want to get the public participation in choosing the country's green heroes," she said.

She said some Internet nominations were canceled because the committee found they were not true.

Chinese director Zhang Jizhong is also on the nominee list. He was accused of causing environmental damage in China's World Heritage-listed Jiuzhaigou National Park when filming "The Legend of the Condor Heroes", for which he has apologized.

"We must admit that we made a mistake," Zhang told the Beijing News. "We are doing quite well (in terms of environmental protection) for this new show and we will do even better in the future."

A shortlist of 24 nominees will be published on November 25 and the winners will be announced on December 2 after committee reviews, surveys and Internet votes.

The 2005 "Green Chinese" award went to five people. Tian Guirong, a peasant from central China's Henan province who set up a environment volunteer group there; Wang Canfa, a university professor who offer free legal aid to victims of pollution; Liang Congjie, head of a non-governmental organization who actively advocated for protection of the Tibetan antelope; Zhao Yongxin, a journalist who first disclosed the anti-infiltration project in the ruins of Beijing's imperial garden Yuanmingyuan; and Liang Liming, environment department chief of the north China's Shanxi province, who devoted in improving the air quality in the coal-rich province.

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