A popular job-hunting reality TV show has created a controversy in China that has gone on to ferment on the Internet.
The program, Only You, is an Apprentice-style show aired on Tianjin TV, where a panel of 12 Chinese company executives interview and evaluate job applicants. Successful applicants are offered jobs on the spot, while unsuccessful ones go home.
Although it is designed to help job seekers, the program has sparked wide criticism for the harsh words the host and interviewers hurl at applicants.
In a recent episode, Guo Jie, a 32-year-old Shaanxi native who has spent the last 10 years studying in France, fainted on stage during a stern line of questioning by the panel of interviewers.
On major microblogging sites like Sina Weibo and QQ.com, netizens called host Zhang Shaogang "cold-blooded" for not immediately going to Guo's aid, and, instead, asking him whether he was faking the collapse.
Meanwhile, Wen Yi, one of the panel members who claimed Guo's Bac+5 certificate in international trade was only at a junior college level, also provoked netizens' ire.
One day after the program, the French Embassy in China confirmed on its official Sina Weibo microblog that a Bac+5 was definitely a master's degree.
The case reminded netizens of Liu Lili, a 24-year-old candidate who spent the last three years studying in New Zealand, whose job interview veered to a confrontation on the program in January.
Kai-fu Lee, former head of Google China, led an online campaign to boycott the program. His campaign caught the attention of over 410,000 netizens last week, with 94.4 percent supporting the boycott.
Even if the job interviewers think the candidate is not good enough, neither the host nor the interviewer is entitled to humiliate him or her, Lee said.
The situation escalated when several members of the program's interview panel and Lee became embroiled in a fierce online dispute following the boycott. On Saturday, Shi Xiaoyan, chairman of Beijing Ilinoi Investment Co, also a member of the panel, even challenged Lee to a "duel" on her microblog.
A widely-circulated open letter, signed off on by a group of overseas students, urged China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television to "take drastic measures" in regards to the program, which the letter said "humiliates job candidates" and causes adverse social effects as the program will do anything to spur higher ratings.
Despite the controversy, some netizens said the program offers a glimpse into China's employment situation, especially the difficulties facing college graduates.
The Chinese government began a push in 1999 to expand college education to produce more professionals to meet the demands of globalization. This year, more than 6.8 million graduates will enter the job market, up from 1.06 million in 1998. However, the number of high-skilled, high-paying jobs has not kept pace.
The challenging employment outlook, which dampens the confidence of many job-seekers, makes employers more arrogant, aggressive and prone to showing disrespect to applicants, columnist Xiong Bingqi wrote in an online article.
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