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September 19, 2017

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Viewers get fired up over employment reality show

BEIJING--China's most popular employment reality TV show, "Only You," has seen 305 applicants find jobs since it started in late 2010, with 51 of them being students who studied overseas. It doesn't sound like a recipe for controversy, but it is.

"Only You" is filmed by Tianjin TV Station and hosted by Zhang Shaogang. On its May 20 broadcast, the 32-year-old Guo Jie, who had studied in France for 10 years and earned three degrees, fainted on stage when it was alleged his master's degree was a fake.

The judging panel mistook his BAC+5 degree (equivalent to a master's degree) as a high school graduate diploma.

This is not the first time that overseas returnees have been challenged on the show.

In January, Liu Lili, who studied in New Zealand, answered Zhang's questions, replying in English occasionally and claiming her favorite literature was William Shakespeare's "heroic couplets" — which appeared to irritate Zhang immensely.

Over the past few months, the TV program has been a controversial topic online, especially on Sina Weibo, because of Guo's fainting incident and because many viewers think the program is biased against overseas returnees.

A video of the show was also posted on YouTube, with English subtitles, and has had tens of thousands of hits. There is even a parody of the show, which turns Guo (with a rainbow colored face) and the judges into cartoon characters.

The former chief of Google China, Kai-fu Lee, who was educated in the United States, responded by initiating a campaign to boycott the show.

During the one-week online activity, 410,402 participants showed their opposition to the program, while 24,438 participants were supportive.

"I can't accept the way the program slanders and teases the applicants for no good reason, except to attract audiences," Lee said in an interview with website Zhongguo Wangshi. "I asked the program to apologize to the students and they did not take any action, so I started the online campaign against it."

Other returning students were also incensed and on June 7 the production team of "Only You," including presenter Zhang Shaogang, appeared in Beijing to face more than 20 student returnee representatives and apologize.

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