Student representative faces backlash over apparently wealthy lifestyle

By Agencies – Global Times Source:Agencies – Global Times Published: 2016-2-5 5:03:02

Liu Bo participating in a Shenzhen political session Photo: CFP

Donning a well-tailored Armani suit and a red scarf, the 13-year-old teenager sat conspicuously among the grown-ups at this year's Shenzhen legislative and political advisory sessions. Instead of accompanying his parents to this formal occasion, Liu Bo was there to make his voice heard as the only student representative.

During the Shenzhen Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference session, he put forward ideas of self-management and not letting exams decide children's future. 

While his voice did not resonate with the public, photos showing him wearing the luxury designer suit sitting at the conference hall soon aroused hot discussion from netizens once they were posted online on January 29.

Many have questioned whether his apparently wealthy background helped him secure a seat at the political meetings and expressed doubts that he was qualified to be a representative. Others supported Liu and argued that the public should not criticize a child.

Child star

On the introduction of Liu's Weibo page, he is described as an actor, singer and anchorman.

According to his Weibo account, he spent almost half of his time recording TV shows and shooting advertisement when he was 5 years old. Later on, he was busy with different kinds of parties and activities.

He has participated in the China Central Television's annual children's Spring Festival gala for five consecutive years and is a frequent guest on many major TV shows.

Bi Hongxia, Liu's mother, said in an interview with Shenzhen Special Zone Daily last year that she has turned down many commercial performance opportunities for Liu and hopes he will focus on his studies.

Bi said that Liu has good academic performance at Shenzhen Experimental School, one of the best high schools in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province. Li Qinglan, Liu's teacher, said that Liu excels in liberal arts and gets on well with teachers and classmates.

It's unknown how much his strong performance at school and on TV contributed to his being invited to  the symposium.

His mother said that she was surprised when she was called on January 18 and asked if Liu would observe the two sessions as one of the 10 youth representatives that would be invited this year, but she saw it as a good opportunity for him.

"As a junior high school student, he already has his own thoughts. He knows his responsibility in the society and what he will face in the future," Bi said.

Usually observers at the meetings are senior officials or celebrities. This is the first time Shenzhen has invited youth representatives, and of them, Liu is the youngest and the only student. 

An official with the Shenzhen City Committee of the Communist Youth League told the media that they recommended Liu because he is the first student in Shenzhen to enroll in the Chinese Young Pioneers National Working Committee, the largest children's organization for children aged 6 to 14 in China. The committee is run by the Communist Youth League, a youth organization under the Communist Party of China.

"Liu's proposal is based on his research. As a teenager, he can touch on more teenage topics, so he is suitable to make remarks for teenagers," the official said.

While some people argued that Liu was too young to be an observer, the official responded, "no one is born to know those things. There must be a channel for them to gradually engage with and know those things. Liu and the group he represents have the right to know what are said in the meeting."

Under question

Bi said that the Armani suit Liu wore that day was a gift, given to him after he performed in a concert in Beijing last year and the family is neither rich nor powerful.

Bi says she noticed the Armani logo on Liu's clothes on the way to the meeting and she tried to scratch it out but failed. When they arrived at the entrance, media started to photograph Liu Bo.

"I noticed netizens talking about this. It's a mistake," she said.

However, Liu has posted many photos of himself wearing Armani clothes on Weibo, spurring the nickname "Armani teenager." Chengdu Business Daily also found that his mother owns a company.

These revelations have led to people criticizing Liu's proposals. Netizens said that his proposal to move away from an exam-oriented education system favors the rich, arguing that exams offer a fairer way for poor, rural people to change their lives.

Netizens also pointed out that Liu doesn't know about the lives of ordinary people and he can't represent most students.

Facing those criticisms, a post on Liu's Weibo said, "Is it a problem that parents work hard to create a rich life?"

Some people expressed understanding for Liu. They said that the great gap between the rich and the poor in China's society has led to dissatisfaction with Liu's dressing and remarks. 

An opinion piece in Caixin, a business magazine, argued that engaging youth in political events was a good move by the Shenzhen authorities, but the way they did so could be improved.

"To let teenagers speak with their own voice and participate in politics and social management is a good thing. But why can't it be conducted through public selection. Why can't they open the door to the 1.05 million teenagers aged 10 to 19 in Shenzhen?" the article said.

In response to the controversy, Bi told Hudu Media that "She did not want to say anything more about it."

"If these things leave a shadow on his life, this is my sin as a mother," she said.

Newspaper headline: The young politician

Posted in: Profile

blog comments powered by Disqus