We tend to imagine Hong Kong as a free-wheeling, anything goes kind of place. But in many ways, it still reflects the conservatism of the mainland, as a recent sex scandal reminds us. Edison Chen, a Canadian-born star who has done movies, albums, ad campaigns (I first got to known him as the face on my Pepsi cans in China) is now finito in the Hong Kong entertainment industry after indecent, OK, overtly pornographic, pictures of him and fellow female stars rocked the Special Administrative Region and spilled into the mainland and Taiwan. Here's the basic rundown.
When Edison took his laptop to get serviced, somebody found extremely graphic photos of sexual encounters with various actresses on his hard drive and published them on the Internet. Various local newspapers then splashed partially censored photos on their front pages for 10 days straight (the uncensored versions were accessible online, in separate magazine supplements, and were passed around on mobile phones or e-mail). What made the scandal especially shocking was that some of the female stars in the photos have built their careers on "innocent girl" images. The damaging coverage of the starlets has led to alleged death threats against Edison, and odd Hong Kong gang bounties like HK $500,000 (about USD $91,000) to chop off his hand, leading some to speculate that the women's management has mob ties.
While the overwhelming majority of people in Hong Kong didn't approve of the photos, polls also show that those who did see them sure seemed to keep clicking as they voiced their disapproval.
Edison has apologized and said he's stepping out of the industry once his current obligations are complete. Given the public outrage over "Sexy Photos Gate," saving face is probably the wise move for now. But I don't foresee a young star with so much of his career ahead of him staying away for that long. Something tells me he'll come through.