Yao Ming joins social media battle against ALS

Updated: 2014-08-20 07:43

By Wang Hongyi(China Daily)

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Yao Ming joins social media battle against ALS

Zhou Hongyi, founder of anti-virus software company Qihoo 360, takes part in the "Ice Bucket Challenge" in Beijing on Monday. The challenge, in which participants are dared to have a bucket of iced water poured over their heads, is aimed at raising money for patients with ALS, a neurodegenerative disorder that is often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. [Photo by Yan Tong/for China Daily]

Former NBA star Yao Ming announced on Tuesday that he will take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise money and improve awareness of the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Yao Ming joins social media battle against ALS
Ice bucket charity heats up Internet 
Yao is the latest celebrity to join the global phenomenon, which has spread to China and flooded social media for the past week.

Yao, who accepted the challenge from friends, will pour a bucket of ice water over himself on Saturday at the NBA Yao School.

The challenge requires that participators pour a bucket of ice water on themselves and then post a video of it on social media while nominating three other people to do the same.

People who fail to take the challenge will have to donate $100 to the ALS Association, which advocates finding treatments and a cure for the muscle-wasting disease.

A number of international celebrities have already taken the challenge, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook.

In China, a group of top CEOs are emulating their Western counterparts. Those who have uploaded videos of themselves completing the challenge include Lei Jun, founder and chairman of Xiaomi Technology Co; Zhou Hongyi, Qihoo's chairman and CEO; and Li Yanhong, co-founder and CEO of Baidu Inc. Lei also donated $100 to the ALS Association.

Social media frenzy

At the Sina Weibo micro-blog site, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" topic has generated more than 3 billion views.

ALS is a rare disease that gradually reduces patients' muscle strength, eventually rendering them paralyzed and unable to speak, move, swallow and breathe.

In North America, ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after the star baseball player who died of the disease in 1941 at age 37. The best-known ALS patient today is British scientist Stephen Hawking. While most people with ALS die within several years, Hawking has had the disease for decades.

The disease strikes 1 to 3 people out of 100,000. China currently has about 200,000 ALS patients.

"The medical treatment for ALS and related supporting facilities is very expensive and cannot be covered by most social welfare programs. This creates difficulties for many ALS patients and their families, both physically and mentally," said Zhu Changqing, associate professor at Shanghai Second Polytechnic University, who herself has muscle deterioration.

Zhu is the founder of the Neuro-Muscular Dystrophy Association of China, a social organization to promote public awareness and call for more support and care for patients.

"The ice bucket campaign has greatly helped improve the public awareness of ALS. More care should be given to them with the campaign," Zhu said.

On Monday, the China-Dolls Center for Rare Disorders also announced its own ice bucket challenge in China, trying to attract more attention to ALS and other rare diseases.

"Many celebrities positively participated in the campaign. But we don't want it to become a game among celebrities. We hope it can help bring more attention to rare diseases," said Wang Yiou, the center's founder and director.