Former HK softcore porn star Diana Pang

At a time when Chinese officials are burning up social media sites with their appearances in amateur sex tapes, a professional is making waves with a move into politics.

Actress Diana Pang (彭丹), well known in Hong Kong for starring roles films like 1997’s “Erotic Ghost Story – Perfect Match,” caused a stir online after reporters spotted her attending a local meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), a legislative advisory body, in the western Chinese province of Gansu this week.

A screenshot on the left shows a composite image, posted to Sina Weibo on Jan. 25, contrasting Hong Kong sex film star Peng Dan as she appeared during a meeting of the Gansu provincial CPPCC meetings on Wednesday (bottom) with the cover of one of her films (top). 

The 40 year old, famous for her full figure, chose to partake in the meetings because she was interested in doing more work in the province, according to a report appearing on the website of the state-run China News Service (in Chinese).

“I hope I can do a little investment in Gansu, and shoot more film and TV programs featuring Gansu – especially mainstream programs,” the report quoted Ms. Pang as saying.

In a video interview (in Chinese)posted to the China News Service website, she explained that her attraction to mainstream movies – a term than in China typically refers to patriotic period films – stems from her family background. “I was born into a Red Army family,” she said. “My grandfather was vice mayor of Zunyi and I used to listen to him tell stories about the Long March.”

News that Gansu was playing host to Ms. Pang, known as Peng Dan in mainland China, produced a gush of responses on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service, including no shortage of ribald commentary linking Ms. Pang with a series of officials whose illicit bedroom exploits have gone viral in recent months.

“Peng Dan might work hand-in-hand with mainland officials to welcome in the New Year by recording a 12-second film that challenges Lei Zhengfu’s (雷政富) record,” wrote one salty microblogger.

Lei Zhengfu was Communist Party chief of a district in the megacity of Chongqing who was sacked late last year after explicit video footage of him having sex with a woman many years his junior was uploaded to the Internet. A number of commentators, noting the short duration of the video, mocked Mr. Lei’s stamina – though to be fair, the footage in question started in media res, making it difficult to say with certainty how long the act lasted.

“These days transcending boundaries is very popular,” wrote another Sina Weibo user. “If politician Lei Zhengfu can act in a porn film, then Category III (三级片) actress Peng Dan can certainly get involved in politics.”

In the Hong Kong film ratings system, “Category III” refers to films limited to audiences 18 years or older, typically because of their sexual content.

Ms. Pan, who stopped appearing in Category III films in the late 1990s, is not the first retired sex film star to make a splash by getting involved in public affairs. In September, former Japanese porn star Sola Aoi sent Chinese social media users into a tizzy by calling for friendship between Chinese and Japanese people amid rising tensions over a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Though Ms. Pang is moving deeper into politics than Ms. Aoi, she could fare better in the relatively conservative court of Chinese public opinion from having been born in central China’s Hunan province and having a far less raunchy oeuvre. Though prolific, Ms. Pang has never acted in the sort of hard-core pornography that made Ms. Aoi famous.

At least one Hong Kong resident rose to Ms. Pang’s defense on Thursday. “Not a big deal,” public relations executive Felix Poon wrote in a post on Sina Weibo. “She isn’t the first artist to enter the CPPCC circle. The movies she made were her job and it was one way to seek success—there’s nothing here to criticize.”

Hong Kong’s scandal-fueled Apple Daily newspaper was less kind, running a salacious full-page story, complete with various images emphasizing Ms. Pang’s bust, under a headline that proclaimed: “China’s CPPCC is once again reduced to an international joke!”

Ms. Pang couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, though she left a message on her verified Sina Weibo account that reads like a response to the criticisms her political ambitions have unleashed. “Whether you like me or not, I’m always here. Though you never cared, I never left. Life is long – Why rush to judge?”

– Josh Chin, with contributions from Te-Ping Chen. Follow them on Twitter @joshchin and @tepingchen.

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