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    Sex scandals, Lisa’s caberet show top China’s celebrity storms of 2023

    We look back at some of the spiciest celebrity scandals of the year and provide updates on what has happened since.
    Cai Xukun wears Prada to the 2023 Met Gala. Photo: Prada
      Published   in Fashion

    While 2023 was quieter than 2022 in terms of crackdowns on China’s entertainment industry, that didn’t stop the country’s biggest stars from stirring the pot.

    From shocking revelations about C-pop singer Cai Xukun’s personal life to eyebrow-raising cabaret performances by K-pop sensation Lisa, each incident ignited widespread discussion across Chinese social media and forced brands to react quickly, drawing from past years’ experiences.

    Below is a roundup of some of the biggest celebrities in China who found themselves in hot water this year, along with an update on their situation.

    Cai Xukun lays low after abortion scandal#

    Following his scandal in China, Cai Xukun busied himself on a tour across Southeast Asia. Photo: Cai Xukun's Weibo
    Following his scandal in China, Cai Xukun busied himself on a tour across Southeast Asia. Photo: Cai Xukun's Weibo

    In June, Chinese artist Cai Xukun rocked the internet with a sex scandal, sparking 2.7 billion reads within two days. Social media was abuzz with rumors that the 25-year-old star had engaged in a one-night stand with a woman, got her pregnant, and pressured her to have an abortion. Cai later confirmed the relationship but denied any forced abortion or foul play.

    Cai has since kept a low profile online, resurfacing to post a new song on Weibo in November. Prada, who named Cai its first-ever Chinese spokesperson in 2019, has not posted about him on Weibo since May. The singer has kept busy elsewhere, commencing a tour taking in Macau, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. The Guangzhou leg, originally set for August, was postponed though, indicating ongoing troubles in the mainland. Read more

    Lisa performs at Paris cabaret show, sparking netizen outrage #

    Blackpink member Lisa sparked a viral debate in China after performing at Paris' iconic Crazy Horse cabaret. Photo: Instagram @lalalalisa_m
    Blackpink member Lisa sparked a viral debate in China after performing at Paris' iconic Crazy Horse cabaret. Photo: Instagram @lalalalisa_m

    K-pop star Lisa from Blackpink rocked the boat with her decision to participate in Le Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris while in town for September’s Paris Fashion Week. Online reactions were mixed, with some netizens praising her artistic expression, while others slammed her for objectifying herself to the male gaze, given the hypersexualization of Asian women in the West. Even Chinese stars who were caught, or thought to have been caught, watching the performance were rebuked by Chinese netizens.

    Since then, photos of Lisa have been quietly removed from Bulgari’s official Instagram and Weibo account as well as the personal Instagram account of Bulgari’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin. The Thai dancer was even banned from Weibo, with a message stating she was “reported for violations of the law and Weibo’s regulations.” Read more

    'Lipstick King' Li Jiaqi’s lack of empathy for working class#

    Li Jiaqi apologized to his fans after criticizing them for not working hard enough. Photo: Weibo
    Li Jiaqi apologized to his fans after criticizing them for not working hard enough. Photo: Weibo

    Livestream king Li Jiaqi rubbed Chinese viewers the wrong way when he callously remarked that viewers weren’t working hard enough for a higher salary, after one netizen complained about the rising price of a Florasis lipstick. “Is the product expensive? Sometimes, people need to find out why they haven’t received a pay raise after working so many years. Have they worked enough?” he said on a livestream on September 10.

    The hashtag “Li Jiaqi apologizes for his livestreaming session remarks” attracted over 1.03 billion views on Weibo, with commenters criticizing his lack of empathy. Despite the initial blowback, Li was still working during this year’s Singles Day Shopping Festival, reportedly selling 25 billion RMB of merchandise. Although his team, Meione Network Technology Co., dismissed the number as inaccurate, it was enough to become a trending Weibo topic and get netizens talking about the wealth disparity in China. Read more

    Zhang Jike allegedly leaks sex tape to settle gambling debts#

    Brands terminated their partnership with the table tennis star after rumors spread that he had shared intimate footage of his ex-girlfriend to pay off debts. Photo: Shutterstock
    Brands terminated their partnership with the table tennis star after rumors spread that he had shared intimate footage of his ex-girlfriend to pay off debts. Photo: Shutterstock

    Chinese table tennis world champion Zhang Jike hit headlines in April after allegedly leaking intimate videos of his famous ex-girlfriend, Chinese actress Jing Tian, to a loan shark to use for extortion to pay off his gambling debts. “Zhang’s debt and video issue is not just celebrity gossip — it’s a serious criminal case,” wrote investigative reporter Li Weiao, who published an article detailing Zhang’s actions.

    Although Zhang refuted the accusations, Anta, Toyota, Nivea, and Chinese nutrition firm Nuotelande quickly ended their cooperation with the athlete and scrubbed promotional content with him off their social media. It’s no wonder they’ve distanced themselves, given the legal repercussions of the allegations. The 35-year-old has since faded from public view, marking a rocky retirement for the three-time Olympic gold medalist. Read more

    Chen Feiyu’s compromising photos shatter idol image#

    Chen Feiyu attended the opening of Dior's Shanghai Hang Lung Plaza store in October. Photo: Chen Feiyu's Weibo
    Chen Feiyu attended the opening of Dior's Shanghai Hang Lung Plaza store in October. Photo: Chen Feiyu's Weibo

    In February, actor Chen Feiyu found himself embroiled in scandal when news of his affair with a fan came to light. Unlike the other sex scandals on this list, compromising photos of the star were leaked on social media, and not the other way around. Chen and his management company swiftly released a statement confirming that the star had engaged in a relationship with a fan when both were single.

    Although Chen did not engage in any illegal activities, he still came under fire from his hurt followers. As one netizen wrote on Weibo, “So why did you pretend to be single all this time?” With Chinese fans fervent about their favorite actors, many expect them to stay single; hence, celebrities tend to stay quiet about their dating life in order to preserve their earning power. Given the lack of controversy on Chen’s part, brands did not cut ties. In fact, the 23-year-old appeared at the grand opening of Dior Shanghai Hang Lung Plaza flagship store in October and in a promotional post for Boucheron. Read more

    Kris Wu sentenced 13 years for rape#

    In November 2023, Kris Wu's 13-year jail term was upheld by a court of appeal. Photo: The Rap of China, iQiyi
    In November 2023, Kris Wu's 13-year jail term was upheld by a court of appeal. Photo: The Rap of China, iQiyi

    The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Once one of the most popular stars in China — with chart-topping albums and even a role in a Vin Diesel film — Chinese-Canadian musician Kris Wu set off a wave of crackdowns on idol culture when he was accused of rape in 2021 and subsequently detained. As a result, Wu was dropped from many brands, including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Porsche, and Lancome.

    On November 25, 2022, Kris Wu was convicted of raping three drunken women in his home between in November and December 2020. In November of this year, a court of appeal in China confirmed Wu will serve time for his crimes — 11.5 years for rape and 22 consecutive months for “group lewdness.”

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