He calls himself the modern day Lu Xun – one of China’s most accomplished writers. He claims to be the only independent voice in the country’s murky entertainment industry, and says he’s unafraid to speak the truth, even if it offends people.
Meet Song Zude, China’s most controversial gossip blogger.
The self-proclaimed “King of Entertainment” is a busy man. During the day he runs a Guangdong-based film and television production company. At night he updates his blog on Sohu.com, dishing the dirt on celebrities.
Few mainland entertainers – dead or alive – have been spared his acerbic tongue. Song has named-and-shamed actresses in affairs with business tycoons, singers who pay fans for feigned adulation, and pop idols who lie about their age and relationships.
Nothing seems off-limits on his blog. Song has even written that martial arts legend Bruce Lee died of exhaustion because he “had too much sex that night, first with his male boss, and then with a female starlet.”
Needless to say, such opinions have earned him many enemies. Critics call him shameless and tasteless. And many want to see him disappear from public view.
“His comments are so outrageous it’s a wonder nobody has sent an assassin his way,” says Raymond Zhou, a columnist with the China Daily.
It’s hard to tell whether Song does much due diligence before penning his stories. But the more resentment he elicits, the more publicity he seems to receive. His blog on Sohu.com has been viewed 35 million times since it started up in 2006. He is also widely quoted in newspapers, which often turn to him for snarky sound bites.
“I’m like Lu Xun because I’m not afraid to offend,” Song told the South China Morning Post. “Chinese youth chase stars blindly and the entire public loves reading tabloid reports on everything about celebrities. I want to present a different picture to society, and the public has the right to know the truth.”
In response to accusations that his stories are made up, Song dared his critics to take him to court: “I have evidence, my detective has records and videotapes, and we have never feared a lawsuit.”
Last year, Xu Dawen, widow of late Chinese filmmaker Xie Jin, called Song’s bluff, filing a lawsuit against him and his twin brother – also a tabloid blogger – for libel. The two had written that they had evidence to prove that Xie had died of exhaustion during a night of passion with a prostitute.
Xu was furious. “That Song could spread these rumours about an 85-year-old man is insane and unacceptable. The rumours have seriously damaged my health and hurt audiences in this nation that love Xie’s films,” she told Modern Express. “This shameless man should be condemned by society.”
Even though Song had claimed he could prove his claims about Xie, he did not show up at the hearing. The court ordered the brothers to pay nearly Rmb290,000 ($42,466) in compensation to Xu.
It didn’t end there because Song was soon caught up in another libel suit. Actress Jin Qiaoqiao, whom Song accused of having an affair with Huang Guangyu, the former chairman of the electronics retail chain Gome (and who’s now on trial for insider trading), sued him for defamation. In April the Beijing court found in Jin’s favour and ordered Song to pay her Rmb100,000.
Perhaps you’d expect the legal disputes to lead to a little more circumspection on Song’s part. But they seem to have done little to discourage the man many Chinese consider the first word in ba gua (gossip). He has been back in the headlines with more claims, this time about actress Xu Qing, who was sent to Tokyo on a mission to raise finance from Japanese film investors. His titillating revelation: Xu spent time as a ‘human sushi bowl’, with investors eating sliced tuna off her disrobed body.
Xu’s manager said this was nonsense, and reserved the right to sue. That could mean another court date for the blogger.
Keeping track: In issue 60, we profiled China’s most controversial blogger Song Zude, who is known for exposing celebrity scandals. Song grabbed headlines last year for claiming that prominent filmmaker Xie Jin died while having sex with a prostitute.
This week, the blogger – who had insisted he would stick to three principles: no apology, no compensation and no change of heart – filed a draft apology in Shanghai’s Jingan District People’s Court and paid Rmb150,000 ($21,900) of compensation to Xu Dawen, the widow of Xie. In his draft apology, Song admitted that the story about Xie was made up.
Photos on the Xinmin Evening News showed Song arriving at the courthouse with his legal representative handing over bundles of cash. (28 May 2010)
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