Fading stars

More celebrities targeted in government’s anti-vice crackdown


Zhang Yuqi: her husband has been detained for soliciting sex

If the Chinese zodiac is to be believed, the marriage between director Wang Quan’an and actress Zhang Yuqi was doomed from the start. Zhang was born in the Year of the Tiger (1986). Wang is a Dragon (1965). Tiger and Dragon – both powerful and feisty – are not regarded as terribly compatible. And sure enough, Southern Metropolis Daily is speculating that the marriage has already come to “a combustible end”.

Wang, a 48 year-old from Shaanxi, grabbed headlines last week after being caught with a prostitute on September 10 at an apartment in Beijing. Both parties are said to have admitted their guilt.

Wang and Zhang met on the set of White Deer Plain, a movie in which she was cast in a rather erotic lead role (see WiC165). They got married in 2011. But in recent public appearances Zhang was seen without her wedding band and there were rumours that the two had started divorce proceedings. The police report, which surfaced after Wang’s arrest, sheds more light on their marital discord. The filmmaker admitted to soliciting sex with a number of women for three days running, supposedly paying the last prostitute Rmb800 ($130.35). Wang, along with six other sex workers and an 18 year-old pimp, are being held for further questioning.

Prostitution and soliciting are illegal in China. If convicted, offenders face at least 15 days in detention and a fine of Rmb5,000, according to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law.

Prior to the scandal Wang was better known as one of China’s leading art-house directors. He was awarded the Golden Bear award at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival for Tuya’s Marriage and he won the best-screenplay award for Apart Together at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival with co-writer Na Jin.

After her husband’s detention was made public, Zhang wrote in a weibo post: “Thanks for everybody’s concern for me and my family. I have mixed feelings now. I believe the law-enforcement authority will impose a fair punishment for the violation of public rules. We [she and her husband] will face the incident’s effect on our family calmly and take joint responsibility.”

Wang is the latest celebrity to be caught up in the wider crackdown on gambling, prostitution and drugs in the entertainment industry. In August, Taiwanese actor Kai Ko and Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee Chan were arrested for doing drugs at a foot massage parlour in Beijing. Police later recovered more than 100 grams of marijuana from Chan’s home in Beijing (see WiC250) and he was formally arrested last week on suspicion of allowing other people to consume drugs, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

In May, the actor Huang Haibo was also detained for soliciting a prostitute after police received an anonymous tip-off from a member of the public.

His punishment was six months of “detention and re-education for those involved in prostitution”.

State news agency Xinhua has been publishing commentaries supporting the current crackdown. “Disoriented moral standards, weakened legal awareness, blended with fame and gains, have plagued today’s entertainment sphere. It is of great urgency to have the necessary professional ethical restraints and strict legal deterrence,” it proclaimed.

The Global Times has also weighed in, warning that misbehaving stars “would pay [a] grievous and long-term price for soliciting prostitutes” because “Chinese society has more stringent moral standards for celebrities”.

“Exposing celebrities’ illegal conduct is a typical government method to deter the public from soliciting prostitutes,” Li Yinhe, a sociologist, told the South China Morning Post. “But the measure is not going to be nearly as effective in China where prostitution is prevalent.”

Wang’s scandal quickly became the highest trending topic on weibo, prompting a widespread discussion about infidelity. Unsurprisingly, most of the comments expressed sympathy for Zhang. “Wang Quan’an is a pig,” one fumed. “Who says unattractive men make good husbands? Look at Wang Quan’an, he cheats and he’s really ugly,” mocked another.

A few contributors tried to stand up for the beleaguered director: “There are two types of men that criticise Wang: those who are too poor to afford a prostitute, and those who are jealous that he can do it continuously for three days.”

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.