It all began last year, when Edison Chen, a star of Infernal Affairs--the movie that inspired Martin Scorsese's The Departed, dropped off his custom pink MacBook at a repair shop. Then in late January, thousands of sexually explicit images began appearing on the Internet that showed Chen in rather compromising positions with eight of the region's most popular actresses and singers. Authorities say the images were illegally copied from the computer by repair technicians.
Police have arrested nine people in connection with the scandal and three suspects have been formally charged, including a 24-year-old man who was charged with publishing obscene materials after he was said to have posted two files containing 100 photos, according to a report in The New York Times.
Chen has apologized for the photos and has asked Web users not to aid the spread of the images. However, the crush of interest in celebrity-obsessed China has crashed servers in Hong Kong and the China mainland, with one online discussion board generating more than 25 million page views and 140,000 comments, according to a report in The Guardian.
"I urge you to please destroy them immediately," Chen said. "Let's help the wounded heal their wounds. I urge you to help the victims and not make it any worse."
Chen has been joined in his effort by the local Catholic bishop, the Hong Kong police, and other celebrities. Dozens of Web sites in China have posted declarations by Web users that they would not view nor circulate the images to other Web users.
"Hereby we call on each responsible netizen to 'end Pornogate' by deleting those photos, not downloading and not forwarding, so as to create a healthy online environment for children," read one declaration.
Unlike in the West, being implicated in a sex scandal can have devastating effects on an actress' career in China and Hong Kong, where careers are built on squeaky clean images.
However, some observers complain that the effort has gone too far, amounting to an infringement on individual freedoms. Several hundred bloggers have taken to the streets to protest the crackdown.
"On the Internet there are a lot of nude pictures and sexy photos, but the police don't bring charges" except in this case, Oiwan Lam, a local blogger who participated in the demonstration, told the Times.