Chinese TV station faces wave of criticism after death of actor Gao

Actor Godfrey Gao arrives at the world premiere of "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles on Aug 12, 2013. (AP photo)

The sudden death of Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model Godfrey Gao during the filming of physically demanding reality show has sparked an outpouring of public criticism directed against the broadcaster.

Gao died in the early hours of Wednesday from a cardiac arrest in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo during the filming of Zhejiang Television's hit reality show Chase Me.

Gao's parents, who travelled to the city later in the day, met television staff and told them "it's not your fault", according to

But despite his family's stance, many fans on social media questioned whether the broadcaster should share some responsibility for his death, prompting the station to promise that it would hold a full investigation.

The show features a variety of tough challenges that even the professional athletes who have taken part - including former Olympic and world boxing champion Zou Shiming - have struggled to complete.

According to a copy of the competitors' contracts that circulated online, the participants agree that the programme makers cannot be held liable for any accidents that happen during filming.

It is relatively common for Chinese television companies to insist that people taking part in their shows sign contracts of this nature.

But in this case, the leaked document prompted widespread criticism as many social media users asked whether the station should bear some responsibility for Gao's death.

One Weibo user commented: "This is too much. The broadcaster should take responsibility, investigate the responsibilities of the relevant personnel, take care of his family, sincerely apologise and compensate them."

In the wake of this public outcry the broadcaster promised to fully investigate the incident.

"[We will] launch a thorough inspection of each stage of the programme's production and improve safety and security plans for the programme," it said.

Chase Me is one of China's most popular sports reality shows with a cast of two regular teams, plus guests, taking part in a series of night-time physical challenges, for example racing up and down a 70-metre wall.

Gao, who was one of the guest competitors, died after collapsing while running at 1.30am on Wednesday, the television company said in an earlier statement.

He was declared dead at a local hospital three hours later.

The station said Gao's family wanted a low-profile funeral and asked the public to understand and respect their wishes.

His agency, JetStar Entertainment, said Gao was not known to have had any heart problems but had been suffering from a cold while filming.

On Thursday, facilities built for the programme had been torn down at the site in downtown Ningbo where the programme was filmed.

More than 100 fans had gathered nearby, leaving flowers and notes to pay tribute to Gao.

Condolences and tributes also poured in on his social media pages, including more than 280,000 messages alone on his final Weibo post.

One said: "Godfrey, you can take a good rest finally. Rest well there."