Hong Kong - While mainland Chinese newspapers continue to cover the country's attempts to dig out of the worst snowstorm in an estimated 50 years as the Lunar New Year approaches, Hong Kong's front pages have been smoking for seven straight days with a hotter subject. - nude stars on the Internet.
The media frenzy began on January 27 when revealing personal pictures of the squeaky clean Twins member Gillian Chung frolicking with her former boyfriend singer-actor Edison Chen, and others purported to be of actress Cecilia Cheung, were posted on the Internet.
Other Hong Kong female celebs later reported to be caught in risque situations with Chen (and solo) included Cantopop queens Joey Yung, Bobo Chan and Cecilia Cheung. 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.
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Among the photos that have Asian netizens messaging frantically are one of Gillian Chung with breasts peeking out from her bikini and her legs spread apart. In another picture, a man resembling Edison Chen performs cunnilingus on her. Bobo Chan (another one of Edison Chen's ex girlfriends) performing fellatio on him, with his trouser trout in full glory.
Cecilia Cheung posing in a provocative police uniform in one picture, and nude in a bathroom in another. Blog comments included: "OMG! Cecilia is so hairy! She could use a shave!" and "Oh dear! He is so small!"
Chen, after 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.
Gillian Chung frolicking with her former boyfriend singer-actor Edison Chen
The technician accidently discovered photographs and videos of Chen and "more than a dozen Hong Kong celebrities which he downloaded onto his own computer. Sing Pao reported that that the technician said he "only intended to keep the material for his own enjoyment". Then 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 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 1000 explicit images", including four women whom were "public figures".
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 waas cooperating with police but could not comment further due to the possibility of the case going to court.
Several days 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 wrong news."
The computer shop was subsequently raided by police officers in a widening investigation across the territory, which has led to eight arrests for infringement of obscene material laws, and the seizure of more than 1000 explicit images, including four women whom were public figures, the police said.
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 said.
"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 to 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 (click here)? No, I didn't think so ..."
The link goes to an official mainland Chinese news site.