China's festival gala performance takes jabs at corrupt officials

China's festival gala performance takes jabs at corrupt officials
Ha Wen, chief director of the 2015 Spring Festival Gala is seen is this file photo taken on February 2, 2015

The anti-graft and frugality policies will play a role in the 2015 Spring Festival Gala, as the most watched show in China says 'no' to actors and actresses caught up in scandalous or illegal behaviour.

"We have to draw a clear line between the mainstream and the scandalous in entertainment circles to promote positive values," said Ha Wen, chief director of the show, which will be shown on Feb 18, Lunar New Year Eve, to about 800 million viewers.

In October, China's top media watchdog ordered TV stations and other outlets not to broadcast material featuring stars who had used drugs or visited prostitutes. Shows lauding major social achievements, and role models surrounded by splendid stage effects, used to dominate the gala.

But in line with the central government's call to cut extravagance and excessive celebration, the 2015 Spring Festival Gala will reduce expenditures on stage decorations and giant props, Ha said.

This year's production will feature a performance of xiangsheng - a form of entertainment involving dialogue between two speakers-targeting corrupt officials.

The script was based on real corruption cases found by the Shaanxi provincial Party disciplinary investigation agency, said Miao Fu, one of the performers.

"Many people (who watched the rehearsal) said a show like ours had never been seen on The Spring Festival stage before, while members of the reviewing panel told us not to avoid facts about corruption," Miao was quoted by the local press.

Yan Jirong, a professor of political science at Peking University's School of Government, attributed the choice of anti-graft subjects during the celebration to the ruling party's fight against corruption.

"Only presenting good things won't help much to promote mainstream values, as the public has its own judgment about reality, such as corruption. Some irony or scoffing at corruption cases in an innocuous way would resonate with the public," he said.

Zhang Chengfu, a professor of public administration at Renmin University, said, "It's time to return to the original attraction of the contents of such shows, not the luxury stage effects or decorations.

"It's good to promote frugality among the public," Zhang said.

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