Racy photos strip heart-throb's
image By Justin Mitchell
HUA HIN, Thailand - While mainland Chinese
newspapers continue to cover the country's worst
snowstorm in an estimated 50 years as the lunar
new year dawns, Hong Kong's front pages have been
smoking for seven straight days with a hotter
subject - nude stars on the Internet.
media frenzy began January 27 when revealing
personal pictures of Gillian Chung, a member of
the squeaky clean Cantopop duo Twins, and her
former boyfriend, singer-actor Edison Chen, and
others purported to be of actress Cecilia Cheung
were posted on the Internet.
Kong female celebs later reported to have been
caught in risque situations with Chen (and solo) included
Cantopop queens Joey Yung and
Bobo Chan. Since then eight people have been
arrested and computers and hard disks containing
hundreds of pictures seized - some obviously
doctored, others likely as not - as Hong Kong
police widen their
investigation into the online
distribution of the pictures.
maintaining silence for a week and reportedly
flying to Canada and/or Boston, released an
English language video apology via his lawyer and
the Hong Kong police. According to the Hong Kong
uber-blog ESWN which has been
keeping a running account of the story with
translations from many of the Hong Kong
newspapers, Sing Pao reported that the pictures
were initially discovered several months ago when
Chen sent his pink Apple Powerbook laptop to a
computer shop for repairs.
accidentally discovered photographs and videos of
Chen and more than a dozen Hong Kong celebrities
which he downloaded onto his own computer. Sing
Pao newspaper reported the technician said he
"only intended to keep the material for his own
enjoyment". Later, however, he invited some
friends over to his apartment to play mahjong and
casually mentioned that he had some "good" stuff
to show them.
When his friends saw the
material, they were "astonished", the paper
reported, and urged him to post them on the
Internet. He was said to be reluctant because he
knew Chen had his contact information, so finally
a female friend agreed to do it. The computer shop
was subsequently raided by police, who claimed
they have seized "more than 1,000 explicit
images", including of four women described as
In his video statement,
Chen, 27, called the postings "intentionally
hurtful and malicious".
"I hereby use this
opportunity to apologize to anyone who has been
affected by this strange, strange ordeal. If you
ever downloaded any of these images, please do not
forward them to anyone ... If you are still in
possession of these images, I urge you to please
destroy them immediately," a contrite-looking Chen
said. He added that he was "hurt, pained and
perplexed" that a number of people's lives had
been affected and said he was cooperating with
police but could not comment further due to the
possibility of legal action.
earlier on his blog, Chen had posted a more
emotional message: "to all the press that have
misquoted me from today's newspaper i would like
for u to respect the situation that everyone is in
and report the truth to the fullest if u would
like to say yesterday i have posted a msg
CHALLENGING the people who are doing this to me
then i have nothing to say but u are reporting the
Responding to Hong Kong media
questions, a police official said they were still
trying to determine whether the pictures were real
or fakes. He said if the pictures were found in
servers overseas, they would call on international
enforcement agencies to get involved and contact
the relevant service providers. People who had
only transferred the obscene picture files to
friends had not violated the law, but those who
transferred them to the public - for example via
Internet web pages - were breaking the law, he
"The police are trying to prevent
the spread of the pictures, but we are having some
difficulties as the pictures have been spread
around for some time," the police official said.
The pictures, which have not yet been classified
as obscene, will be forwarded to Hong Kong's
Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification.
Bloggers and netizens have raised
questions regarding the police force's handling of
the scandal. Roland Soong, an American and Hong
Kong citizen who maintains the ESWN blog, has had
many questions, as well as some answers.
Regarding a (highly suspect) photo of Joey
Yung purportedly baring her breasts that he posted
on ESWN as part of his account, Soong asked: "Does
my posting of this photograph cause harm to Joey
Yung's reputation? Well, this website is
registered and hosted in the United States, so the
Hong Kong police will have to seek the help of the
FBI/Interpol on this. Besides, why chase after me?
After all, I got this photograph from another
website which has a much bigger circulation than
mine and therefore has wrought much more havoc.
Would the Hong Kong police dare to do anything
about that website? No, I didn't
think so ..."
The link to the photo leads
to a mainland Chinese official news site.
Justin Mitchell is an Asia Times
Online correspondent based in Thailand.