Can Stephen Chow rise to the CPPCC challenge?

Pundits point to the failings of past celebrity CPPCC delegates after satirical actor picked

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 5:27am

"The country finally has a mission for you."

It's a line from the Stephen Chow Sing-chi movie From Beijing with Love, a wild and woolly parody of 007 spy thrillers, that has become a reality for Chow, who has become a delegate to Guangdong's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Together with several other figures from Hong Kong's entertainment and media circles, including Phoenix TV anchor Sally Wu Hsiao-li, who is Taiwanese, and actor Kent Tong Chun-yip, Chow's name appeared in the list of delegates for the conference's annual meeting starting on Wednesday.

It's not the first time a famous actor has been made a delegate to a provincial or national political advisory body, but as a super star who has influenced a whole generation with satirical comedies rooted in reality, Chow made headlines in the mainland's leading news portals and newspapers.

While Chow's fans joked online that the comedy star's main job should be amusing people during meetings, whether he can fulfil his responsibility as a political adviser became the focal point in the media, with so many previous examples of star delegates failing to do so.

For example, track icon Liu Xiang, a national CPPCC delegate, has been absent from meetings or attended them without preparing any proposals on the grounds of tight training schedules. He once explained he was a delegate to "mainly communicate with and learn from others".

Other CPPCC delegates or former delegates from the entertainment sector include actress Gong Li, director Zhang Yimou and skit actor Huang Hong, but few of them have offered valuable suggestions, the China Youth Daily said.

"People's memory about those stars being delegates is their photos at the Great Hall of the People, colour stories about them, jokes which had nothing to do with politics, and all those requests for leave," it said in a commentary.

The Nanfang Daily noted that in 2006, 28 Guangdong CPPCC delegates quit as they were "too busy", including two Olympics champions.

People had reason to be pessimistic about Chow, it said, not to mention the woolly image he has engraved in the public memory, which does not suit a competent political adviser.

The Beijing News said that unlike Jackie Chan, who is quite talkative, or Yi Nengjing, who is up on current events and involved in charity, Chow is seen as more aloof. However, as a celebrity who already enjoyed fame and wealth, Chow deserved some applause for being willing to play a more important and serious role, it argued. "It's not possible that this job, carried with honour and duty, has nothing to do with Chow's personal choice," it said, adding that he should exercise his rights properly since it was his own choice.

Members of the mainland's central and local political advisory bodies can be recommended by any party or organisation, or invited to become delegates by the body's standing committee. Su Zhengwu, a member of the Guangdong CPPCC's Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan affairs committee, told Xinhua that a candidate had to agree to his or her appointment, and that the candidate should be able to represent the industry he or she was involved in.

He said celebrities in Hong Kong had advantages in being political advisers because they had a lot of social influence, represented their own fields, and were able to advance collaboration between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Hunan's leading news portal, voc.com.cn agreed, saying they could do a better job than less well-known political advisers. "Many of Stephen Chow's movies have shown care and love for ordinary people. What we should focus on in the future is whether Chow can be a competent delegate with that same care and love," it said.