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People of 2003,an event-packed year
( 2004-01-02 16:53) (Beijing Weekend)

Yang Liwe

It took China's first astronaut Yang Liwei around 21 hours to transform himself from a man no one knew to the hero of a nation. China's first space traveller became an instant star on October 15, the moment he touched down back on Earth after orbiting the planet 14 times on a totally successful mission.

A married father-of-one, Colonel Yang, 38, impressed people with his calm nature, modesty and bravery. Born to a family of teachers in 1965 in Suizhong County, Liaoning Province, Yang was described as a clever, happy and tranquil child, and a good team leader of his playmates. His excellent academic scores won him many prizes in maths competitions and caught the eye of the No 8 Aviation College of the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which recruited him as a fighter pilot back in 1983. On graduation he became an attack aircraft pilot in the air force, and was rated the elite of his air force division.

Yang demonstrated his crisis management capability during a low flying exercise in the summer of 1992 in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Zhong Nanshan

A flagship campaigner in China's fight against SARS, Zhong has come to be widely respected for his bravery across the country. The medical expert is director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases. He became a leading light in the battle to overcome the epidemic and provide valuable ideas and solutions to the problem.

Song Pengfei

The 21-year-old AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) patient from north China's Shanxi Province gained a measure of instant celebrity and respect after he shook hands with former US president Bill Clinton at Tsinghua University on November 10 during an International Seminar on AIDS and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) sponsored by the university.

Song was brave enough to stand up in public and announce himself to be an AIDS victim.

Yao Ming

China's top basketball star made his name as the first number one pick foreigner in NBA draft history. Now an idol among both Chinese and overseas youngsters, the mild-mannered 2.26 metre-tall Houston Rockets?centre has been named amongst China's top ten youngsters of 2003 by the All-China Youth Federation, the China Youth Development Foundation and ten Beijing-based media organizations.

Tang Jiali

It was a turbulent year for dancer-turned-model Tang Jiali who justified her decision to do a nude photo album by saying she wanted to "forever keep her youthful image." The artistic nudes drew the praise of many critics but saw her caught in a storm of public criticism.

Even her traditionally minded father stopped talking to her amidst inaccurate, face-losing claims that the pictures were pornographic. Because of disputes, she went through a lawsuit with the photographer of the book. Teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, Tang shut herself away, only going out to breathe in some fresh air at night.

Ironically the outbreak of SARS brought her new hope: "SARS totally changed my view of life," she said. "I thought that life had made a joke of me before. From now on, I am determined to start to enjoy my life." Not only has she started going out in public again, she's also gearing up for the publication of another photo album.

Chen Zhonghe

The coach of China's National Women's Volleyball Team lead the squad to an eye-catching victory at the world championships again this year, bringing the team the title for the first time in 17 years. The National Volleyball Team has five times won the international championship before, and is widely acclaimed as a source of great sporting pride amongst ordinary Chinese people.

Chen has become renowned for his perseverance, and has worked his way up slowly in the past 22 years since starting his career as an assistant coach.

Hao Lulu

Dubbed China's first "manmade beauty," Hao has been undergoing a 200-day "duckling-to-swan" course of cosmetic surgery under the knives of experts at the Beijing EverCare Cosmetic Surgery Hospital and Clinic.

The clinic picked up the tab for the surgery but got more than its fair share of free publicity from the media after using her case as an advertisement for its services.

Industry analysts say the cosmetic surgery industry has progressed dramatically in China in recent years, since there are more and more people who are able and willing to pay big money to make themselves look better and younger.

The Asia-Pacific area is the second largest market after the United States in cosmetology consumption.

Statistics from the China Plastic Cosmetology Committee show there are more than 10,000 medical institutions carrying out procedures throughout the country.

Mu Zimei

Claiming to have sex with two men a week, Mu Zimei has attained a remarkable degree of publicity since putting her "sex diary?online last August. Neither a prostitute nor insane, she claims she does what she does free of charge to gain experience and entirely of her own free will. Mu has inevitably attracted enormous controversy. And that's part of the reason why she has become one of the most talked-about people of the year. Mu lives in Guangzhou

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