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Six degrees

Kylie Knott


Yao Ming, the former basketball superstar (right) who, at seven feet, six inches, was the tallest active player in the NBA when he played with the Houston Rockets, between 2002 and 2011, has for years spoken out on environmental issues. With the message “When the buying stops, the killing can too” Yao’s most recent cause is the fight against the trade in illegal ivory, for which there are huge markets in China and Vietnam, where a single horn can sell for US$200,000. Poaching for ivory kills more than 25,000 elephants annually and Shanghai-born Yao witnessed first hand the horrors of the trade on a visit to Kenya and South Africa last year. Another Chinese celebrity lending their support to the world’s largest wildlife awareness campaign is mainland actress Li Bingbing …


Cast last month in Transformers 4, Li is carving out a name for herself in Hollywood, having already starred in English-language movies Resident Evil and The Forbidden Kingdom. She also had a leading role in Tsui Hark’s 2010 film Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, in which her character was based on Tang dynasty writer Shangguan Wan’er …


Born in AD664 into a prominent family, Shangguan was the granddaughter of executed courtier and poet Shangguan Yi. She went on to become one of the most powerful female figures in Chinese history, filling the roles of poet and politician (she was made private secretary to China’s first and only empress, Wu Zetian, after impressing the latter with her poetry). She was also a concubine of Emperor Zhongzong. In the 2011 television series Wu Zetian Mishi, the role of Shangguan was played by Hong Kong’s Gillian Chung Yan-tung …


Chung, best known as one half of Canto-pop group Twins, made headlines in 2008 for all the wrong reasons when sexually explicit photographs of her with Hong Kong celebrity Edison Chen Koonhei did the rounds on the internet. The fallout damaged her career: she was dropped from performing in the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and, in the same year, fellow mainland film director Chen Kaige cut her scenes in his film Forever Enthralled. Also cut were her scenes playing an exotic dancer in W, the George W. Bush biopic by United States director Oliver Stone …


Best known for zooming in on controversial political and cultural issues, Stone’s body of work includes hits JFK, Natural Born Killers, Platoon and Nixon. He’s lesser known for sharing his political views in the book The Many Faces of Peace, wherein he joins 38 Nobel laureates calling for dialogue towards peace in the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. Other “faces” featured in the book are Russian conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, ex-World Bank head James Wolfensohn and Hong Kong martial arts superstar and master of gaffes Jackie Chan …


Having acted since the 1960s, the kung-fu star has appeared in more than 150 films. Earlier this year, however, Chan took on a different role when he became a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a move seen by Beijing as a way of boosting ties between Hong Kong and the mainland. Chan attended the annual meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in March, along with another celebrity who joined the 2,000-member advisory body this year – Yao Ming.



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