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Hurdler Liu Xiang a distraction in sessions

By Chen Weihua (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-03-05 13:02
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Editor's note: The author argues during two sessions, the media should responsibly focus their spotlight on the really serious issues instead of chasing celebrities,like Liu Xiang.

The annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) now going on in Beijing are important events for lawmakers and advisers to tackle some of the nation's biggest challenges.

However, the news media devoted prime space and time on Wednesday and Thursday on how the country's top 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang, a CPPCC deputy from Shanghai, was chased by a huge crowd of journalists, mostly from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Under the bombardment of reporters, Liu admitted that the bill he was going to submit was actually written by someone else. It was a proposal calling for better benefits for sports coaches. He also conceded that only 20 percent of the content reflected his views, the rest belonging to others. He didn't specifically name who the others were.

Related readings:
Hurdler Liu Xiang a distraction in sessions Meet the celeb delegates
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Hurdler Liu Xiang a distraction in sessions Behind the Scenes: Liu Xiang plays Catch Me If You Can

The news is deeply troubling.

First, the news media is stillobsessed with celebrity news, even during the NPC and CPPCC sessions, where only serious topics for the nation and the world should be addressed, such as the widening income disparity, corruption, environmental pollution and a shortage of funding for education.

There should be plenty of experts who can offer good ideas to tackle these tough challenges. Liu Xiang and many of the sports and pop stars attending the meetings may not come anywhere near these experts in understanding the issues.

In this sense, reporters should be reminded that they are not traveling to the events looking for celebrity news. It is simply the wrong time to zoom in on celebrities, when 1.3 billion Chinese are gravely concerned about urgent matters, including skyrocketing housing prices and flawed medical and social security systems.

Second, although the 26-year-old Liu Xiang was honest in saying that someone else penned the bill for him and only a fraction of the bill was his own views, there are many other questions to be answered, such as why it was the first time in the last three years he attended the CPPCC opening ceremony and why it was the first time he ever submitted a bill.

Of course, it was not only the news media that was preoccupied by celebrity news. Cities and provinces have been busy in recent years turning their sports and pop star celebrities into deputies to the local and national NPC and CPPCC.

Many sports and pop stars, willingly or reluctantly, have taken the titles in the past years, without fully realizing the heavy social responsibility involved.

The trend of electing and chasing celebrity deputies should be stopped immediately, simply because most of these celebrity deputies lack the expertise or knowledge in legislating and advising on key political, social and economic issues.

Besides Liu Xiang, there are many other sports and pop star celebrities attending the NPC and CPPCC this year. News from the paparazzi about these celebrities should not become a distraction from the serious talks being held by many of the nation's top pundits, thinkers, practitioners and social activists.

We should look into how these celebrity deputies were elected in the first place. For the time being, we should focus on the real experts and the serious issues facing the nation.

There should be no more celebrity distractions in the remaining days of the NPC and CPPCC sessions.