Article From Batgwa.com
23 February 2008
It is one of the biggest stories to hit Hong Kong showbiz ever. The celebrities sex photos scandal, now four weeks in, continues to dominate TV, newstands and websites. Here is a batgwa.com briefing on events so far...
What is the fuss about?Sex photos, of Edison Chen (陳冠希) and women purported to be female celebrities, started surfacing on the internet on 27 January. More photos leaked onto the web every few days for three weeks. The last leak was on 24 February.
The biggest female stars implicated were Gillian Chung (鍾欣桐) and Cecilia Cheung (張栢芝).
Other less well known female celebrities were implicated too, including Bobo Chan (陳文媛), Rachel Ngan (顏穎思), Mandy Chen (陳育嬬), Candice Chan (陳思慧) and Edison's current girlfriend Vincy Yeung (楊永晴).
Some of the photos are of women in kinky poses, wearing underwear or completely nude with genitals on show.
Some images are of Edison giving a woman, purported to be Gillian, oral sex, and vice versa, and appear to be screengrabs from a video. There are also photos of other women, purported to be Cecilia, Bobo and other stars, giving Edison blowjobs.
All the stars had previously been romantically linked to Edison, who was widely portrayed by the press as a playboy and hellraiser.
Are the photos real or fake?
When the photos first started surfacing, mainstream TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and websites were very careful to use words like "purportedly" and "allegedly" when describing who appears in the photos.
Representatives of Gillian and Cecilia immediately reported the matter to police. Gillian's record company, Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG), issued a statement saying the images were digitally faked. Sources close to Cecilia also said publicly that the photos were fakes.
However, in the last two weeks, it was confirmed that the photos are real.
Gillian, the only implicated female star to speak in public since the photos started leaking, said in a statement to the press on 11 February that she had been "naive and foolish" and that she was "sorry for the incident". Though not an explicit admission that she is in some of the photos, it was very close. After Gillian's statement, an executive for EEG told the press that neither Gillian nor any other artist or employee would ever talk about this topic again. Asked by reporters why the company had previously cried "fake", the executive refused to comment.
Edison admitted in a press conference on Thursday that he had taken the photos.
It confirmed what most of the media had suspected, but had not said outright in fear of libel suits. When scandal started to emerge, while the ladies doth protested too much, Edison, the only male celebrity implicated, declined to go to the police and refused to comment on the authenticity of the photos. It did not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who was telling porkies.
What has been the showbiz fallout?Gillian avoided the press for a couple of weeks before her statement on 11 February. During her absence, some newspapers rumoured that she wanted to commit suicide, although this was denied by EEG.
A Hong Kong newspaper reported that negotiations for Gillian's pop duo, Twins, to endorse a toothpaste company in mainland China for HK$4 million fell through. Twins' upcoming concert has been put on hold.
Gillian has been asked questions about the scandal wherever she goes. The pressure seems to have become too much, and she has ducked out of several commitments. There are rumours that Twins may split, but this is denied by EEG.
Edison flew to North America straight after the photos began appearing in cyberspace. Newspapers reported that the star had fled the city in shame. However, those close to Edison said that Vancouver-born star did not run away and had, long before the scandal started, planned to return to Canada to visit family for Chinese New Year and then to go to America to visit girlfriend Vincy.
Edison finally returned to Hong Kong on Thursday. He announced that he would fulfil outstanding commitments before suspending his Hong Kong showbiz career. Edison has already been axed from the movie Jump and dropped by sponsors including Manhattan Titanium, a credit card company, and EPS, Hong Kong's local version of Visa or MasterCard.
Cecilia has still not appeared in public since the photos leaked. She has, however, managed to do some work behind closed doors away from press, such as a photoshoot for a cosmetics company.
While Cecilia's husband Nicholas Tse (謝霆鋒) has publicly said he believes the photos are fake, newspapers reported marital trouble behind closed doors, especially because some of the photos of the woman purported to be Cecilia appear to have been taken just before the couple's wedding. The house the couple shared was vacated just after the scandal broke and the couple have not been seen in public since. Newspapers have speculated whether or not the house move was coincidental, and whether they moved together or whether they moved separate ways.
Bobo's planned wedding to wealthy boyfriend Philip Jin (金紫耀) was cancelled at the behest of his mother, newspapers reported.
Vincy said that she stands by her man. Vincy is also the niece of EEG's boss. Edison used to be signed to EEG. Oh and Nicholas is with EEG. Hong Kong showbiz is a small world.
What has been the political fallout?None of the celebrities purported to appear in the sex photos have yet been accused by the police of any wrongdoing.
Edison has been helping the police with their investigation. The police confirmed that the photos were stolen from a computer that had been sent for repair. Although the police have refused to say if the computer in question belongs to Edison, newspapers have widely reported that it's a customized pink Apple notebook computer belonging to Edison that he had nicknamed "Cotton Candy Mac". Some of Edison's computer equipment was taken away by the police on Thursday.
The police have been trying to establish who stole and leaked the photos, while trying to stop people publicly distributing photos that have already leaked. They raided a computer shop where they suspect the photos were stolen. And they are warning the public that posting the photos on a website or blog constitutes public distribution and a violation of obscenity laws, but say that emailing the photos among friends is not breaking the law.
So far the police have arrested nine people. Three people have been charged with breaking obscenity laws. Everyone has been freed or bailed. Some of the charges have been dropped since the Obscene Articles Tribunal reclassified the photos from "obscene" to "indecent".
A protest march took place in Hong Kong to demonstrate against the police action. The police have been widely criticized, both in mainstream media and by netizens, for what is perceived as the special treatment because this case involves celebrities, the invasion of privacy of internet users and the hunt for a scapegoat that has seen several arrests but a constant leak of photos.
During the first two weeks, when everyone was asking whether or not the photos were real, the police refused to answer. The police instead said they were not investigating whether or not the photos were real. They said that, whether the photos were real or fake, the people who stole, leaked and spread the photos were breaking the law. "The police are treating this case with kid gloves," a showbiz industry source familiar with the investigation told batgwa.com, "because they are afraid to upset the powerful entertainment companies. If the photos were fake, they would have no problem saying it. And if the photos were real – and the case did not involve celebrity – police would nonchalantly say so right off the bat."
A lot of police manpower has been used to protect Edison. He has had back doors made available for him so he can dodge the press. Hundreds of police officers have been used to shield the star from the media and to protect him from anyone who wishes him physical harm. Threats to Edison's life have been made by some netizens since the scandal started. There is hearsay in newspapers and online that triads are after Edison, because some of the female celebrities affected are managed or related to people rumoured to have gang connections. Senior police officials have denied that their use of resources is disproportionate.
The scandal has opened up a Pandora's Box of issues, from privacy rights to police cronyism.
Some netizens are pointing out the inconsistency in the police distinction between public distribution and personal use, asking which would be worse, sending the photos to a mailing list with thousand of emails or posting the photos on a blog that has a few dozen readers.
The police have drafted in dozens of officers, including computer forensics and witness protection, to work on the case. Some netizens are pointing out that there are photos of rape and child abuse floating around on the web that should be investigated, not sex photos involving consenting adults however rich and famous.
It is unclear what the police are investigating anymore, now that the photos are "indecent" and not "obscene". Edison is being questioned as a witness, not as a suspect.
Newspapers are speculating that Edison could get into trouble if one of the female stars comes out to say that the photos were taken against her will. But this is unlikely, a source close to one of the women told batgwa.com.
There are also newspaper rumours that Edison could face lawsuits from the female stars for reputation damage and loss of future earnings. This, too, is unlikely, because none of the women involved are likely to want to admit explicitly that she is in the photos or add more sensation to events, our source told us.
It is likely that the person – or people – who leaked the photos is still at large. Will he or she leak more photos? Or maybe even leak a sex tape?
Cecilia is the only major celebrity yet to come out to face the fallout. Every newsdesk in Hong Kong is poised in anticipation.
Edison will likely bounce back into showbiz.
He only said that he is suspending his Hong Kong entertainment career, which leaves the door open for him to immediately start trying to crack Taiwan, Japan or the US. Ironically, the star who previously had little success outside of Hong Kong, despite wangling supporting roles in Hollywood films like The Grudge 2 and The Dark Knight to try to up his profile, has achieved international exposure because of the sex photos. The scandal has been covered by the three big newswires, AP, Reuters and AFP. The New York Times and the Washington Post in the US and the Guardian and the Independent in the UK are among many western newspapers covering the story. CNN has carried the story.
And Edison only said that he is quitting Hong Kong showbiz "indefinitely", so he could be back in the city's fickle entertainment industry before you know it.
Photos, News & Discussions here:
Edison Chen - 陳冠希, Gillian Chung - 锺欣桐 - 钟欣桐, Cecilia Chung - 張栢芝 - 张柏芝, Bobo Chan - 陳文媛, Vincy Yeung Sex Photo Scandal
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