Pretentious Tsinghua professor busted with huge ‘Big Bang Theory’ stash

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By Liang Mianpai
Education Correspondent

Li narrowly beat Johann Hari to win the 2011 People's Daily Excellence in Journalism Award

HONG KONG (China Daily Show) – A Tsinghua University literary professor was detained at Hong Kong airport after being caught with a laptop containing “vast quantities” of lowbrow US sitcoms and straight-to-DVD releases, customs officials reported yesterday.

Professor Li Xiwang (pictured, right), known to his students as Lao Shulian – or ‘Ole Hamsterface’ – has long taken a hardline attitude in class towards “vulgar” foreign influences on Chinese culture and is widely known for his self-regarding pomposity.

But he was said to be carrying several terabytes of downmarket material, including a complete boxset of The Big Bang Theory – a poor quality American series  immensely popular in China – when he attempted to march through security Wednesday.

According to a police report, “the suspect began fidgeting and sweating when asked if he had anything to declare.” After his bags were searched, police found a laptop decorated with purple glitter and Transformers stickers.

Xiwang initially claimed the material belonged to a student but later admitted it was his after a raid at his home found ‘Sheldon’-style clothing, multiple seasons of Growing Pains, and DVDs including Sharktopus 3 and Hall Pass.

Hardened cops described the find as “deeply upsetting.”

A so-called expert on Confucian values and journalism ethics, Xiwang has carved a highly respectable name for himself in China as a two-faced shill for the government, preaching media openness and universal values to the West while serving as an obedient Party mouthpiece at home.

This discovery of further duplicity is certain to cement his reputation as one of China’s leading academics, experts say.

“In an atmosphere of rank hypocrisy, abuse of position, plagiarism and conflicts of interest, it is very hard to distinguish oneself in China’s faculties,” said Fang Lu, Professor of Studies at Shanghai Number Four Catering University. “Professor Li Xiwang is undoubtedly one of the few to rise above that fray… and still remain thoroughly tainted.”

But although China has begun concentrating some of its expanding geopolitical clout on homegrown satire, the incident also highlights the country’s growing problem with poor-quality imported comedy.  Experts say Xiwang’s collection represents the  “one of the biggest personal hauls of sub-prime sitcom in China” and some are now pressuring the government to do more to defend the borders against lousy Western exports.

In July, a gigantic cache of aging shows, including complete editions of Married with Children and Charles in Charge — thought to have been destroyed by authorities in the mid-1990s — was discovered in a convoy “heading for the provinces.”

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