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Kris Wu Scandal: Chinese State Media Wants to ‘Raise the Bar’ for Becoming a Celebrity

CCTV’s post on “Raising the Bar for Being a Star” received over 680 million views on Weibo.



Pop star Kris Wu has dominated Chinese social media over the past few weeks, with news of his detainment over rape allegations leading to an explosion of comments on Weibo. The Kris Wu scandal has sparked an online debate over ‘raising the bar for becoming a star’ and the moral responsibilities of Chinese idols.

The Chinese-Canadian superstar Kris Wu, better known as Wu Yifan (吴亦凡) in China, has been a trending topic on Chinese social media ever since he was first accused of pressuring women into sex.

The 19-year-old student Meizhu Du (都美竹) was the first to accuse Wu of predatory behavior, with at least 24 more women coming forward claiming the celebrity showed inappropriate behavior and luring young women into sexual relationships.

Although Wu denied all allegations, more than a dozen firms either cut ties or terminated contracts with him. As the scandal unfolded, various hashtags related to the story received billions of views on Weibo.

When news of Kris Wu’s detainment came out on July 31st, Weibo’s servers barely seemed to be able to handle the spike in traffic, and comments came pouring in.

At an earlier stage of this social media storm, China’s state-owned media outlet CCTV sent out a Weibo post on July 20 that called for “raising the bar” to become a celebrity.

The CCTV statement argued that celebrities need to uphold their social responsibility and that they should be “a person first, and celebrity second.” It also said that the entertainment industry plays a role in this, as it “should urge celebrities to improve their moral standards through rigorous self-discipline.”

The post echoes the Standards of Conduct issued by the China Association of Performing Arts in February of this year, which contained a list of moral guidelines and rules of conduct for Chinese performers.

According to the document, which also attracted media attention at the time, a special “Ethics Building Committee” (道德建设委员会) was established to emphasize the enforcement.

“Self-disciplinary measures” for performers.

According to the guidelines, “performers who violate the regulations will face boycotts by member units within a certain period of time.” It also states that performers who fail to comply with the guidelines could face a permanent ban from their profession – such a boycott will usually come from the top.

China has a thriving celebrity culture and celebrities have an enormous influence on Chinese social media and popular culture. Channeling public opinion and safeguarding social stability are priorities for Chinese authorities, and the influence of Chinese celebrities is often used to promote Party ideology and policies.

While authorities encourage Chinese celebrities to act as positive role models, negative news surrounding the country’s most famous stars is often perceived as having a “negative social impact” or a “bad influence on public morale.”

When Chinese actress Fan Bingbing was caught up in a tax evasion scandal, she was labeled as “not socially responsible.” After the dramatic and dirty divorce of Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong topped all trending lists, China’s media watchdog announced it would guard against the hyping of these kinds of scandals due to their supposedly harmful impact.

These previous examples, the recent call by CCTV, and this year’s regulations for the performance industry demonstrate China’s determination to “promote a healthy entertainment environment” and to encourage the idea that Chinese artists should be “role models” who abide by the rules of “social morality.”

Since Kris Wu made his debut in 2012 as one of the members of EXO, his road to stardom over the past nine years overlapped the “internet age” (流量元年) in China. The blooming of digital media has changed the traditional Chinese entertainment landscape. With access to a huge population of fans and fast-growing social media, a strong public relations team can essentially guarantee public appearances and a stable flow of money. The rapid development of reality shows has also brought out seemingly endless opportunities for artists to become famous.

However, as the saying goes, “heavy is the head who wears the crown,” – most Chinese netizens seem to agree with the idea that society should set higher expectations for celebrities. The post by CCTV soon attracted over 5,3 million likes and nearly 180,000 comments.

“Public figures should take responsibility for their behavior. Once they break the rules, they will be criticized by society and the mainstream media. At the end of the day, the public will imitate the idols (and their behavior),” one Weibo user wrote.

After the recent surrogacy scandal of Chinese actress Zheng Shuang, Wu’s case has once again renewed discussions over the moral standards of celebrities. More and more people have started to question what makes someone qualified to be an idol and whether the bar for becoming a celebrity is set too low.

“The law is only the minimum standard for people’s code of conduct, the goal shouldn’t be just to obey the law, right?” one of the top-rated commenters wrote on Weibo. Others also argued that “the bar for becoming an idol is simply set too low!”

“The entertainment industry has become a place to shelter evil people, it’s rotten to the core. I don’t like any of it,” another commenter wrote, with someone adding: “Their standards are too low and they make money too fast.”

By August 2nd, the hashtag “Raise the Bar For Becoming a Star” (#把做明星的门槛提上来#) had received over 680 million views on Weibo.

In light of China’s enormous celebrity culture, online discussions over whether celebrities should hold themselves to a higher moral standard will undoubtedly continue. Despite the many online disagreements regarding the Kris Wu case, most netizens seem to agree that there should be more to Chinese celebrities than fame, money, and the latest scandal.

By Yunyi Wang 

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China and Covid19

King of Workout Livestream: Liu Genghong Has Become an Online Hit During Shanghai Lockdown

Liu Genghong (Will Liu) is leading his best lockdown life.



With their exercise livestreams, Liu and his wife are bringing some positive vibes to Shanghai and the rest of China in Covid times, getting thousands of social media users to jump along with them.

On Friday, April 22, the hashtag “Why Has Liu Genghong Become An Online Hit” (#为什么刘畊宏突然爆火#) was top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Liu Genghong (刘畊宏, 1972), who is also known as Will Liu, is a Taiwanese singer and actor who is known for playing in dramas (Pandamen 熊貓人), films (True Legend 苏乞儿), and releasing various music albums (Rainbow Heaven 彩虹天堂). He is a devout Christian.

Besides all of his work in the entertainment business, Liu is also a fitness expert. In 2013, Liu participated in the CCTV2 weight loss programme Super Diet King (超级减肥王, aka The Biggest Loser) as a motivational coach, and later also became a fitness instructor for the Jiangsu TV show Changing My Life (减出我人生), in which he also helped overweight people to become fit. After that, more fitness programs followed, including the 2017 Challenge the Limit (全能极限王) show.

During the Covid outbreak in Shanghai, the 50-year-old Liu Genghong has unexpectedly become an online hit for livestreaming fitness routines from his home. Together with his wife Vivi Wang, he streams exercise and dance videos five days of the week via the Xiaohongshu app and Douyin.

In his livestreams, Liu and his wife appear energetic, friendly, happy and super fit. They exercise and dance to up-beat songs while explaining and showing their moves, often encouraging those participating from their own living rooms (“Yeah, very good, you’re doing well!”). Some of their livestreams attract up to 400,000 viewers tuning in at the same time.

The couple, both in lockdown at their Shanghai home, try to motivate other Shanghai residents and social media users to stay fit. Sometimes, Liu’s 66-year-old mother in law also exercises with them, along with the children.

“I’ve been exercising watching Liu and his wife for half an hour, they’re so energetic and familiar, they’ve already become my only family in Shanghai,” one Weibo user says.

“I never expected Liu Genghong to be a ‘winner’ during this Covid epidemic in Shanghai,” another person writes.

Along with Liu’s online success, there’s also a renewed interest in the Jay Chou song Herbalist’s Manual (本草纲目), which is used as a workout tune, combined with a specific dance routine. Liu is also a good friend and fitness pal to Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

This week, various Chinese news outlets such as Fengmian News and The Paper have reported on Liu’s sudden lockdown success. Livestreaming workout classes in general have become more popular in China since the start of Covid-19, but there reportedly has been no channel as popular as that of Liu Genghong.

The channel’s success is partly because of Liu’s fame and contagious enthusiasm, but it is also because of Vivi Wang, whose comical expressions during the workouts have also become an online hit.

While many netizens are sharing their own videos of exercizing to Liu’s videos, there are also some who warn others not to strain themselves too quickly.

“I’ve been inside for over 40 days with no exercise” one person writes: “I did one of the workouts yesterday and my heart nearly exploded.” “I feel fine just watching,” others say: “I just can’t keep up.”

Watch one of Liu’s routines via Youtube here, or here, or here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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China Celebs

Weibo Shuts Down Rumors of Tong Liya’s Alleged Marriage to CMG President Shen Haixiong

The censorship surrounding the Tong Liya story almost drew more attention than the actual rumors themselves.



The famous actress and dancer Tong Liya (佟丽娅, 1983) has had an eventful year. After hosting the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2020, she performed at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in February of 2021 and in May she announced that after seven years of marriage, she finalized her divorce with actor and director Chen Sicheng (陈思诚).

Tong Liya is of Xibe ethnicity and was born in Xinjiang. The former beauty pageant and award-winning actress is known for her roles in many films and TV series, such as those in The Queens and Beijing Love Story. She also starred in the 2021 Chinese historical film 1921, which focuses on the founding of the Communist Party of China.

This month, online rumors about Tong flooded the internet, alleging that she was recently remarried to Shen Haixiong (慎海雄, 1967), the deputy minister of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the President of the CMG (China Media Group), which includes CCTV, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

Some of the rumors included those claiming the actress was previously Shen’s mistress, or netizens connecting Tong Liya’s relations with such an influential and powerful person to her role at the previous CCTV Spring Gala Festival.

But these rumors did not stay online for long, and the quick censorship itself became somewhat of a spectacle. As reported by China Digital Times, the topic ‘Tong Liya’s Remarriage’ (‘佟丽娅再婚’) was completely taken offline.

Following the rumors and censorship, it first was announced that Tong reported the online rumors about her to the police, with the hashtag “Tong Liya Reports the Case to Authorities” (#佟丽娅报案#) receiving over 310 million clicks. On December 23rd, the hashtag “Beijing Police is Handling Tong Liya’s Report” (#北京警方受理佟丽娅报案#) went viral online, attracting over 1.7 billion (!) views on Weibo within three days.

The Beijing Haidian police statement on Weibo is as follows:

In response to the recent rumors on the Internet, the public security authorities have accepted Tong Liya’s report, and the case is now under investigation. The internet is not a place beyond the law, and illegal acts such as starting rumors and provoking trouble will be investigated and punished according to the law.”

The statement led to some confused responses among netizens who wanted to know more about what was actually reported and what it is the police are exactly ‘investigating.’

On Twitter, Vice reporter Viola Zhou wrote that the censorship “angered many young people,” some of whom lost their social media accounts for discussing Tong Liya’s second marriage: “It’s now prompting a mass pushback against the potential abuse of censorship power.”

In an attempt to circumvent censorship, and perhaps also ridicule it, some netizens even resorted to morse code to write about Tong Liya.

One Weibo post about the issue by Legal Daily received over 3000 comments, yet none were displayed at the time of writing.

The case is allegedly still being investigated by Beijing authorities.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

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