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Many celebrities from Hong Kong were made members of provincial political consultative conferences across China this week, sparking a heated public debate.
One such celebrity is Hong Kong film star Stephen Chow Sing-chi, who ought to have participated in the opening session of the Guangdong provincial political advisory body's conference on Wednesday. But he was absent.
Hong Kong actress Diana Peng, who is rumored to have acted in some adult movies in the early part of her career, was made a political adviser in Gansu province on Tuesday, sparking an even fiercer online debate than Chow.
Some people have questioned the selection of non-local celebrities as members of political advisory bodies. Such questions are not justified, but the celebrities should better fulfill their social and political duties to win people's trust.
Article 20 of the charter of the top political advisory body says: "The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference shall be composed of the Communist Party of China, the various democratic parties, public personages without party affiliation, people's organizations, ethnic groups and people of all walks of life, compatriots of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan, returned overseas Chinese and specially invited personalities, who are divided into a number of sectors. The composition of the CPPCC local committees shall be made up in the light of the local actual conditions with reference to that of the CPPCC National Committee."
That means, local advisory bodies can appoint influential people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as members, just as the national political advisory body does. After all, good advice from entertainment industry celebrities, businesspeople and sports stars can be helpful for local development.
In this sense, the appointment of Chow, who is "very interested in politics and feels honored to be a political adviser", as a member of the Guangdong political advisory body seems a win-win development for both parties. The inclusion of a film star from Hong Kong as political adviser in Guangdong can help expand cultural exchanges between the two places. And if his suggestions yield good results, they can lead to a boom in Guangdong's cultural industry.
Peng has said she is willing to invest more in Gansu's film industry.
Those who enjoy talking about her rumored early career life ignore her struggle as a nobody to become a professional actress. Her proposal can help the relatively underdeveloped northwestern province to prop up the local economy if she can win more support.
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and his son Richard Lee are members of Beijing's political advisory body, and along with other members from Hong Kong they are doing their job quite well. For instance, speaking at the Beijing political consultation conference on Monday, Richard Lee suggested ways to improve the capital's air quality.
Of course, the celebrities, no matter from Hong Kong or the mainland, have to fulfill their duties. Experience tells us that people who excel in the entertainment industry, sports fields or business are not necessarily good political advisers.
A political adviser has to spend a lot of time perusing reports and records, and investigating events, as well as keeping himself abreast of news and current affairs to come up with practical and helpful proposals.
No wonder, people are asking how can celebrities, given their tight schedules, take time out to play the role of a constructive political adviser. And Chow's absence from the opening session of the Guangdong advisory body's conference has lent credence to their view.
Many entertainment and sports stars have been made members of the national as well as local political advisory bodies. They include filmmakers Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang, actress Gong Li, TV anchor Ni Ping, skit star Zhao Benshan and 2004 Olympic 110m hurdle champion Liu Xiang.
But despite their outstanding achievements in their respective fields, their selection as political advisers have created controversies. Indeed, some of them have failed to fulfill their responsibilities.
The absence of Liu Xiang from four annual sessions of the national committee of the country's top political advisory body sparked a fierce online debate, with many netizens seeking his disqualification as as a member.
Ni Ping evoked a public uproar at the 2011 annual session of the top advisory body by saying: "I love my country, so I has never cast a negative or abstention vote".
Some people interpreted her remarks as incompetent, while others said she should be disqualified as a political adviser.
Other cases can be cited to show how incompetent some celebrities-turned-advisers have been. Their frequent absence from important advisory body meetings and their inability to come up with good proposals have undermined their position.
Since people are becoming increasingly sensitive to celebrities, China's political advisory bodies, both national and local, should remove incompetent members and offer the limited seats to more people who can really read public opinion and submit good, workable proposals for national and local development.
The author is a writer with China Daily. firstname.lastname@example.org.
(China Daily 01/24/2013 page9)