Heroic exploits

And exploiting the hero…

Heroic exploits

Little Hero and bigger one

Few people take their job as seriously as Lin Hao. The 10-year old Lin Hao was hailed as “Little Hero” after the May 12 Sichuan earthquake. Lin, who was trapped in the rubble with his classmates during the earthquake, was one of the first to climb out. But he went back to pull out his two classmates and suffered an injury as a result.

When asked why he risked his life to save others, the press reported that he said: “I was the hall monitor, it was my job to look after my classmates.”

Such was the media storm surrounding Lin’s endeavours that he was asked to appear at the Beijing Olympic’s Opening Ceremony alongside basketball superstar Yao Ming.

When he strutted into the stadium, dressed in white and carrying a mini Chinese flag, he was given a rapturous welcome by the 90,000 spectators.

Although a year has gone by since the earthquake, Lin is once again putting his fame to good use. But this time it seems to be more for commercial gain than for patriotic purposes.

The boy’s father recently entered into a contract with a children’s clothing company authorising the use of Lin’s image.

However, many netizens around the country decried the move as an exploitation of the national hero’s fame. And Little Hero’s dad is getting the brunt of the criticism over

the alleged payout. “It is a nightmare to answer the phone,” laments his father Lin Dakun. “I get calls every half-hour questioning me about a Rmb3 million payout, which I really do not have.”

Apparel firm Topbi Clothing has announced it has paid Rmb50,000 ($7,300) for a promotional photo of the Little Hero wearing one of its T-shirts. But the Chengdu Evening News reports that Lin’s father will be in charge of the company’s six franchise outlets in Sichuan, with an estimated annual revenue of Rmb600,000. Prior to managing his son’s career, Lin was a construction labourer making Rmb2,000 a month.

Topbi can at least claim that its association with Little Hero has some basis in shared good deeds. The firm donated money and material to support the reconstruction work in Shifang, a Sichuan city devastated by the earthquake.

Others find the commercial ploy harder to accept, especially after the emotional period surrounding Lin’s emergence onto the public stage last year.

But some have spoken up in Lin’s defence: “Little Hero is also a human being. It is Lin Hao’s right to promote a brand… netizens should stop being critical” said Tian Wanliang, a family friend responsible for Lin’s public relations.

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