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Icy challenge is bringing the 'circus' to town

Many celebrities in China are waiting anxiously to be named, presumably by better-known stars, to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But what started as a campaign to help those with a rare disease has quickly evolved into a circus act about who is a who's who, with the IT industry beating showbiz at its own game, at least for now.

Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi Technology, was supposed to be the first Chinese to shower himself with a bucket of iced water. However, competitors including Victor Koo, chief of Youku Tudou, pre-empted him by simply starting the challenge themselves without picking up the gauntlet from an overseas source.

Lei combined this new form of charity with promotion of his business. Media releases of him taking the challenge were followed by a lengthy description of his company and its products.

On the positive side, ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, has received enormous publicity from the campaign, with donations reportedly increasing.

The challenge requires participants to pour a bucket of iced water on themselves and then post a video of this on social media while nominating three others to do the same.

Those who fail to take the challenge have to donate $100 to the ALS Association, which advocates finding treatments and a cure for the disease.

But for most people, the challenge has taken on a carnival atmosphere, with some counting the ice cubes in the bucket and others examining the occasional embarrassment caused to celebrities when the icy water hits their heads.

Generally, entertainers are at a natural advantage with media exposure.

Some have shown their well-toned physiques, such as singer and actor Andy Lau. Actress Li Bingbing maintained her poise throughout, while Hong Kong singer G.E.M. caused something of a sensation when her wet shirt became somewhat revealing.

Taiwan model and actress Lin Chi-ling and actor Chang Chen, also from the island, decided to donate money rather than take the challenge, saying that many places in the world need clean water, so water resources should be treasured.

The challenge's detractors say the fun it generates and the celebrity culture surrounding it threaten to overwhelm the real purpose of fighting ALS.

Some have tried to keep their cards close to their chests. Wang Sicong, son of Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin, said little in a water-pouring video and did not disclose the amount he donated. But the media later found he had given 1 million yuan (US$160,000), accounting for 90 per cent of the funds collected in China to date.

The most touching video could be that of Doze Niu, a Taiwan film director. After taking the challenge, he told how his father had suffered from ALS, and the effect this had on the family.

He said of the campaign: "I hope this is not just a fad. And don't forget the suffering that this world has witnessed."


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