Taiwanese-American mega star Wang Leehom has issued a public apology to his ex-wife Lee Jinglei after a scandalous feud that has gripped the Chinese-speaking world. Wang first announced on Dec. 15 that he and Lee were in the midst of getting a divorce after reports surfaced that he had been soliciting prostitutes.
In the post released to his Weibo account on Dec. 18, Wang says he will take care of his three children with Lee and apologizes for the indiscretions that caused the demise of his marriage. Wang added that “men should take all the responsibilities” and that he will be taking a break from his singing career to focus on correcting his mistakes.
On Dec. 20, the U.S.-born singer also said he would “temporarily retire from the artistic community.”
“Failing to maintain the marriage, bringing distress to the family, and not giving the public a good image of an idol … these are all my fault,” Wang wrote. “I’d like to apologize to my mom and dad, Jinglei and the children. The actual divorce has already been done, and it is no longer meaningful to argue about the past.”
Following Wang’s divorce announcement, his now estranged wife responded in a lengthy social media post on Dec. 17 accusing the singer of emotional abuse, lack of care for his family, infidelity and solicitation of sex workers.
The accusation sent the Internet ablaze across Chinese social media as Wang’s reputation of a “high-quality-idol” — a phrase applied to celebrities whose private conduct is deemed praiseworthy — was ripped apart by netizens. Some users even joked that Wang, who grew up in the U.S., should earn an Oscar for playing a “high-quality-idol” all these years.
In her Weibo post, Lee further accused Wang of transferring property assets under his name, including those that Lee had helped pay for. Lee said Wang had used her as “a chess piece” to protect himself and manipulated her throughout their marriage. “You just kept on lying to fool the public and I will not bear the cross for you anymore,” she wrote.
Lee also alluded to rumors that Wang had multiple affairs with other celebrities and mentioned an incident in which he was allegedly caught on camera soliciting a prostitute, claiming there is “video proof of all of this.” She wrote that Wang had admitted this incident to her and “has a problem where he cannot control himself.”
Lee’s post quickly spread online, where it was liked by 12 million people on Weibo, which is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Many users expressed intense disappointment with Wang, and several brands including Japanese automaker Infiniti and Hong Kong based company Chow Tai Seng Jewelry decided to end their business relationships with the star.
“As a fan of 10 years, I hope you retreat from the entertainment circle and reflect on this … I trusted you so much before, and had your song as a ringtone for 10 years … Now I am extremely disappointed,” one commenter wrote in response to Wang’s apology.
Beijing: Stars must ‘discipline themselves’
The public dispute from one of Asia’s highest profile families blew up in both Taiwan and mainland China to such a degree that it has attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities.
The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) issued a commentary over the weekend and laid out reasons on why stars should have “good taste, integrity and responsibility, along with obeying the laws.”
The CCDI is the highest internal control institution of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “If these stars do not discipline themselves, they will not be respected by others. They will eventually pay for their evildoings,” the agency wrote.
The scandal also came less than a week after Chinese leader Xi Jinping gave a speech at the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles on how artists should conduct themselves.
“A literary and art worker who does not have moral integrity will not be accepted by the people or by the times … Those who don’t respect themselves won’t get any respect from others,” Xi was quoted as saying. He also said that the actions of entertainers and artists are not merely a private issue, and the “moral atmosphere in the entertainment sector will affect the ecology of both the industry and society”.
In a notice released on Nov. 23, the China Association of Performing Arts announced the blacklisting of 88 entertainers, including a K-pop star and well known TikTok influencers. In the notice, the agency claimed that the stars had “violated the country’s moral standards,” and said the list prevents “unethical artists” from re-entering the industry.