China fury over $132,000 govt bonus for Li Na

Beijing: Chinese official media and web users poured scorn on local government officials 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$2.65 million ($2.3 million)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 "money-worshipping".

"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.