January 19, 2007 / 11:26 AM / in 12 years

China film director hailed for harming environment

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese director Chen Kaige, whose movie “The Promise” harmed a pristine Himalayan lakeside during shooting, has been nominated for a “Green Chinese” award for raising environmental awareness.

In May, China fined makers of “The Promise”, at $35 million (18 million pounds) the most expensive film in Chinese history, 90,000 yuan (403 pounds) for destroying vegetation at Bigu Lake in the southwest province of Yunnan, Xinhua news agency said.

Their failure to conduct an impact assessment and secure permission to build roads and buildings caused a media storm in China and led to regulations punishing film makers who cause environmental damage.

“Sometimes a negative example can serve as a warning,” Xinhua quoted Wang Panpu, deputy director of the awards committee, as saying.

The annual “Green Chinese” award, co-sponsored by seven government departments and endorsed by the U.N. Environment Programme, selects five to 10 Chinese who have made a “great contribution” to protecting the environment, Xinhua said.

Chen’s appearance in a 253-name shortlist had drawn fire from some Chinese Internet users, Xinhua said.

“How can Chen be nominated? If a bad example like him can be nominated, then traitors should be nominated as heroes in the same sense,” fumed a post on Web site Netease.com.

But the awards committee defended the director’s nomination.

“Chen was nominated by more than 200 Internet voters,” an awards committee spokesman told Xinhua.

“Most Internet users wrote that Chen was a negative example and if it wasn’t for his movie, there wouldn’t have been such a huge debate about environment protection.”

Apart from Chen, whose 1993 movie “Farewell My Concubine” garnered an Oscar nomination, the shortlist also included Zhang Jizhong — a Chinese director whose adaptation of Louis Cha’s martial arts novel “The Legend of the Condor Heroes”, caused environmental damage in China’s World Heritage-listed Jiuzhaigou National Park.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou has been criticised for turning part of China’s scenic West Lake in the eastern province of Zhejiang into a “dusty construction site”, Xinhua said in a separate report.

The staging of Zhang’s multi-million dollar “Impression West Lake” — an outdoor visual spectacular contracted by the local government — had angered residents who said it breached environmental protection regulations.

The report did not say whether Zhang had also been nominated for the “Green Chinese” award.

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