Share via Email This article is over 10 years old An unlikely coalition of pop idols, communist censors, Hong Kong police and a Catholic bishop are fighting to stifle the biggest celebrity sex scandal in the history of the Chinese internet. They are struggling to halt the spread of thousands of lurid digital photographs apparently showing one of Hong Kong's most famous actors, Edison Chen, in bed with eight of the territory's top actresses and singers.
The images - illegally copied from the star's customised pink MacBook - have prompted a media frenzy here that has eclipsed the fixation about Britney Spears in the English-language web. As well as crashing servers in celebrity-obsessed Hong Kong, the gossip has spread to the mainland, where one online discussion generated more than 25m page views and , comments. Police investigating the cause of the scandal have focused on Chen's laptop.
According to local newspapers, the photographs were illegally copied from the computer while it was being serviced by technicians. Since the first images appeared more than two weeks ago, an unknown culprit has uploaded dozens of fresh pictures every day, each time putting more celebrities into more compromising positions.
The Emperor Entertainment Group, the management company for Chen and at least one other star in the videos, initially claimed the pictures were fabricated. But Chen has since made an apology. And in this regard, I'm filled with pain, hurt and frustration. I hereby use this opportunity to apologise to anyone who has been affected by this strange, strange ordeal," he said in a short video statement. The Vancouver-born rap singer and star in the Infernal Affairs series of films said he is cooperating with police and called upon anyone in possession of the images not to pass them on.
Let's help the wounded heal their wounds. I urge you to help the victims and not make it any worse. It is important that we should keep our mind decent and perhaps needless to say, we should not post or circulate pictures," he told the South China Morning Post.
Sympathy for the victims has been mixed with criticism. Bloggers accused pop singer Gillian Chung of hypocrisy because she was making speeches against pre-marital sex at about the same time as she was photographed apparently doing just that with Chen.
Hong Kong police have arrested eight suspects and warned that people may be prosecuted for sharing the images. This prompted a demonstration by several hundred activists, who believe the crackdown has gone too far.
The daily leak of new images has continued on servers in the US and Australia, circulated through Flickr, by email and passed on by hand in the form of shared memory devices. The gossip has spread rapidly to the mainland, even though censors remove the images almost as soon as they are put up. On the Tianya bulletin board, a single discussion string about the veracity of the pictures has attracted Visitors share tips on where to download the latest images and criticism about the behaviour of the stars.
The condemnatory tone of many postings has prompted some commentators to turn on the gossipers. Mindful that similar discussion groups have been closed down, along with links to the images, Tianya switched its tone today. A new discussion highlights the need for morality and links the "mass voyeurism" of the scandal with democracy. One poster said it proved mainland-style politics are better than the democracy of Hong Kong and the UK.
The US has democracy, but its internet is filled with the Paris Hilton sex video. We have more democracy than Hong Kong.