Beijing - Chinese official media and web users poured scorn on local
government officials on Wednesday after they gave multi-millionaire tennis star Li
Na an 800 000 yuan ($132 000) reward for winning the Australian Open.
Li was handed a giant red cheque by Wang Guosheng, governor of her home
province of Hubei, as soon as she landed back from Melbourne on Monday.
The 31-year-old had already received prize money of A$2.65m ($2.3m) for
winning the Australian Open - her second Grand Slam title.
Chinese Internet users, angry at the additional reward given by local
officials, accused them of wasting taxpayers' money that could have been used
to address the needs of the poor.
"The government and the party should stop spending money as they
wish," said a poster on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
"The cash is taxpayers' and should be spent on people in need, not
abused in a (political) charade," they added.
The official Xinhua news agency also weighed in, carrying a commentary on
Wednesday that called the event "embarrassing" and
"A bonus from the government is by no means Li Na's most wanted reward
after she won the Grand Slam title... perhaps only China's sports authorities
value the power of money so much," said Xinhua.
It cited Xiao Huanyu, a sports professor in Shanghai, as saying: "The
government deems sports achievement a kind of political achievement. Therefore
it needed to hand out the bonus to 'show its face' even though Li Na's triumph
had little to do with the government."
Li opted out of China's rigid state sports system in 2008 to go it alone,
hiring her own coaches and controlling more of her winnings in a
career-defining move, and regularly says she represents only herself.
The Hubei provincial government previously gave her a 600 000 yuan bonus
after her historic first Grand Slam triumph, the 2011 French Open, which she
later donated to a local nursing house.
The Beijing News also defended Li - who has a sometimes troubled
relationship with Chinese media - publishing a commentary Wednesday branding
local officials as opportunists.
"This group of people has remained the same all along - they will not
endure failure with you but they are more than happy to share your
victory," said the article, written under the alias of Xiao Shiyilang - a
Robin Hood-like character from a kung fu novel who steals from the rich to give
to the poor.