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February 3, 2012

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Making a meal of a Valentine's Day kiss

SHANGHAI couples are licking their lips at the prospect of free Valentine's Day meals being offered to the winners of passionate kissing competitions at local restaurants.

But the promotional stunts being held around February 14 are also proving controversial, as participants are required to French kiss for 60 seconds in front of customers.

And to make the moment even less intimate, a member of staff will be judging their kissing technique and collecting photographic evidence to be displayed on restaurant walls.

A hamburger restaurant with several branches has promised on microblog that any couple - straight or gay - who kiss for 60 seconds will win a Valentine's Day meal.

When Shanghai Daily spoke to a staff member at a branch on Yuyuan Road, Jing'an District, he said that 15 to 20 couples will be picked for each contest.

"They have to French kiss for 60 seconds in front of diners, and staff will observe and judge," said the staff member on the restaurant hotline.

"It will be easy to see whether they obey the rules," he added.

Meanwhile, a Valentine's Day offer at a fish restaurant on Nanjing Road, promising discounts to couples who hold hands, hug or kiss, appears very popular, as would-be customers told Shanghai Daily the hotline is constantly engaged.

However, "kiss for your dinner" promotions have divided city opinion.

"On one hand, these events are not a bad idea as they offer valentines a chance to express their love," said Gu Xiaoming, a history professor with the Cultural Heritage Protection Department of Fudan University.

"But, on the other, couples are required to exchange their kisses, an intimate way of expressing love, for financial benefit," added Gu. "Emotion is being traded for money."

Commenting online, some local residents had no such reservations. "Kiss for a free meal? That's fine by me - I don't lose anything taking part, and it's just for fun," said 25-year-old man Liu Sen.

Some local women seemed less certain, though. "Kiss for 60 seconds in front of a crowd? I'd be afraid I might suffocate," said 24-year-old Ariel Fang.

"These events are just promotional stunts by restaurants, and I don't want to trade our love for a meal," she added.


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