Yao leads the way in charity efforts

Updated: 2011-07-15 16:11


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Yao leads the way in charity efforts
Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming attends a news conference in Shanghai April 21, 2011, during which he spoke about his contract with the Houston Rockets. [Photo/Agencies]

SHANGHAI - Some Chinese new-rich like eating shark fin soup because they think it shows their class. However, for the Chinese NBA idol Yao Ming, doing so is unacceptable as the practice has led to the overfishing of sharks.

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When Yao and his wife Ye Li, also a basketball player from Shanghai, got married in 2007, they publicly announced that they would not allow shark fin soup to be served at their wedding banquet.

Actually, Yao had been saying no to shark fins since 2006, when he was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador for wild life protection.

"Sharks are friends of human beings. They are not our food," Yao said.

Now, the 226-cm big guy is resorting to his personal influence to encourage more to say no to eating the soup and to raise awareness of animal protection.

Other celebrity athletes like Olympic champions Li Ning and Kong Linghui are following on the heels of Yao, throwing themselves into serving the public as Goodwill Ambassadors for wild animal rescue.

Recent reports about Yao's retirement have saddened tens of thousands of basketball fans both at home and abroad. Yet Yao's influence goes far beyond the basketball courts.

Yao has engaged himself in charity and public welfare services for quite a while.

When the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan in southwest China in 2008, Yao donated 2 million yuan (about $300,000) in the immediate aftermath.

On August 8, 2008, when Yao appeared at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, hand in hand with Lin Hao, a two-grader survivor from the earthquake who saved several of his classmates.

"When I was a little boy, my parents and teachers told me to help others and to be a good man," Yao recalled.

"But I could not donate then because I had not much pocket money. After I moved to Houston, I got involved in quite a number of community service activities and I felt a strong sense of achievement when I got people together," Yao said.

Like Yao, newly crowned French Open champion Li Na has showed her willingness to donate. Li gave 480,000 yuan of her prize money from the open, plus 20,000 yuan from her own pocket, to a local nursing home in her hometown.

Gao Shenyang, a former official from the Chinese Tennis Management Center, disclosed that Li donated more than 1 million yuan last year to children who suffered from natural disasters.

Another Chinese sports icon, hurdler Liu Xiang, has also been actively involved in charity for years.

The world champion has been devoting himself to providing financial aid to leukaemia patients and children of migrant workers.

Liu has reportedly donated more than 5 million yuan to various charities and fund raising events.