Controversy over Gong Li nomination in 'Green Chinese' awards

Updated: 2007-10-30 21:43

BEIJING -- The nomination of Gong Li, one of China's most famous actresses, in the country's "Green Chinese" awards in 2007 has drawn criticism.

Though some netizens believe Gong Li has for years earned herself a positive image as an advocate of environmental protection, she is condemned by some others as "talking about environmental protection in furs".

The actress was seen wearing furs when attending a session of this year's National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in March on which she made a proposal on environmental issues.

Though it is still not clear whether the furs were man-made or not, it is still the subject of hot debate among netizens.

Wang Panpu, secretary-general of China Environment Culture Promotion Association (CECPA), the event's organizing committee, explained the reasons for her nomination on Tuesday.

The "Green Chinese" annual award is co-sponsored by seven government departments which selects five to ten Chinese who have made a great contribution towards protecting the environment.

"Negative examples" and "controversial figures" have for the first time being added to the nominations to serve as a warning, according to Wang.

From September 5 to October 20, more than 50,000 people participated in this year's nominations for the "Green Chinese" award via Internet, mail and phone calls, etc.

Popular Chinese comedian Ge You is also among the "controversial figure" nominees. Ge You's good image deteriorates after he endorsed the Yilin Wood Company.

The company cheated investors by promising high returns on sales of forest lands. It used the illegal pyramid-selling model, in which one salesperson recruits other salespeople who pay a fee to the first salesperson. Those salespeople in turn attempt to recruit further salespeople who in turn do the same.

Police said the company took more than 1.6 billion yuan ($206 million) from about 20,000 people across China

However, the popular comedian earned support from nominators for the green awards on the grounds that he has rectified his mistake by taking part in public-interest advertisements.

Neither Gong Li nor Ge You have been involved in sabotaging the environment, however, both of them are criticized for their discrepancy between words and deeds in environmental issues, Wang said.

The "Green Chinese" award caught public attention last year as a result of the controversial nomination of Chinese film directors Chen Kaige and Zhang Jizhong, though neither of them made it to the final short list.

Chen's film, "The Promise", damaged the environment near a pristine lake shore in Shangri-la in southwest China's Yunnan Province, and the film company behind Zhang's film was accused of damaging the environment in the Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan Province during shooting. Zhang later agreed to make a documentary as recompense. Chen was fined as a result of his film damaging the environment.

Many netizens described the nomination of the directors as an outrageous irony, saying if it wasn't for Chen's movie there wouldn't have been such huge attention focused on environmental protection.

The award's organizing committee announced on Tuesday a list of 280 nominees for the "Green Chinese" award, consisting of people from various circles, different regions in China and even other countries.

Those who top the list of nominees for role models are Wang Yongchen, the founder of Green Earth Volunteer, a non-governmental organization focusing on environmental protection; Chai Jing, a CCTV-based journalist who has conducted in-depth reports on environmental issues; Zhao Xihai, a retired worker who has planted hundreds of thousands of trees over the ten years or so.

Jackie Chan, the world-famous movie star and Zhang Yimou, the celebrated director, are also nominated as role models for their attention to and engagement in environmental protection. And five people nominated as "negative figures" are all in charge of polluting enterprises responsible for significant pollution accidents, according to the organizing committee.

The people listed include Ma Zhengxiang, head of the Zhengxing Chemical Co. Ltd in Linxiang city of central China's Hunan Province, which was blamed for illegal discharges of a highly toxic arsenic compound into a river causing a water shortage for 80,000 people for four days last year.

Other negative figures include Zheng Yonggang, head of Wuhu Tianrun Biotechnology Co. Ltd in Anhui Province, for causing water pollution; Wu Shuren, head of Caixin Group in central China's Henan Province, for illegal discharges that caused pollution in the Huaihe River;

Yang Shijiang, head of Tianma Beer Co. Ltd, for illegal discharges causing pollution in the surrounding areas; and Zhuang Kai, head of a plant under the Panzhihua Iron & Steel Group in Sichuan Province for causing pollution in the Jinshajiang River. The award, co-sponsored by seven Chinese government departments, including the State Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Culture, and supported by the United Nations Environment Program, was established in 2005.

The award ceremony will be held on December 12 after nominees go through public voting.

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