No one loves a celebrity more than someone with a grudge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


Celebrities everywhere, it seems, have problems with their celebrity. Advertisers frequently use their portraits without permission and the paparazzi have an uncanny ability to find them eating at local takeaways without their makeup.

But celebrities on the mainland have a few other things to worry about - such as people borrowing their names for petitions.

Liu Yang , China's first woman in space, who received a warm welcome from Communist Party leaders after touching down, found out not everyone on earth was cheering her return.

Her hometown newspaper, the Zhengzhou Evening News, reported on Monday that residents of the compound where Liu's parents live had displayed a large banner saying: 'Don't come home, Liu Yang. There's no electricity or water.'

The protest followed a long blackout, and residents eventually decided to use Liu's name to raise attention. It worked. Just 17 minutes after a user posted the story on Weibo, the country's most popular microblog service, the compound's property manager posted an apology, saying the problem would soon be fixed and that each household would receive 500 yuan (HK$615) in compensation.

'Liu Yang's apartment is now back to normal. There's no need to worry,' the director wrote on Weibo an hour after the first post.

The management office's quick response received applause. The same Zhengzhou newspaper said days later that many residents were even 'touched by the sincerity' of the company.

Not everyone was buying that. The Yangtse Evening Post published an editorial on Tuesday, entitled 'Everyone wants to be a neighbour of Liu Yang,' questioning whether the manager's quick response was due to Liu's fame. The article said the residents' success was probably impossible to duplicate as 'there is only one Liu Yang'.

'The main point behind this success is Liu is a national celebrity, and leaders care about celebrities. Once leaders take a matter into great account, efficiency improves,' the editorial explained.

The Qianjiang Evening News said the fact that the apology came 17 minutes after the first Weibo post was most revealing.

'The management office made a point of saying 'Liu Yang's home is back to normal'. Liu is a national hero, and it is a big issue if her home suffered a blackout during this hot summer. The residents were smart enough not to write 'don't come home, dear residents. there's no electricity or water' on their banner,' the paper said. 'One Liu Yang is far more important than hundreds of households.'

Sohu, a popular mainland news portal, ran a series of articles on the theme of 'super-national treatment'. The articles said foreigners, government officials and celebrities could always count on receiving special treatment from authorities, which demonstrated that power divided rich and poor in China.

'Liu is a popular last name, but not everyone can have Liu Yang or Liu Xiang as their neighbour,' the article mocked. Liu Xiang, a hurdler, is one of the most popular athletes in China.

Oriental Morning Post also talked about 'super-national treatment' on its front page on Tuesday, saying if people started thinking there was a small group of people receiving 'super-national treatment' , it meant the majority of people might not even get regular treatment.

'Now the rich and powerful receive super-national treatment while the public has to fight for ordinary treatment. If the situation continues, ordinary people will feel they are treated unequally, leading to dissatisfaction, which could have horrible results,' the article warned.

The article also highlighted a few more cases of celebrities receiving preferential treatment. One was when Xie Na, a popular actress and singer, knelt down to apologise to her audience after a stage show was delayed due to the late arrival of her flight. Although flights on the mainland are frequently late, on this occasion the airline posted a history-making apology to the star.

'It's not easy for ordinary people to get apologies when their rights have been infringed by powerful authorities,' the paper said.

'Everyone deserves equal rights,' The Beijing News told its readers. 'Ordinary people, not just celebrities, deserve to have their rights protected too. Selective apologies after media reports show we still have a long way to go in perfecting civil rights protection.'