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BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party has seized on the high-profile detention of a Canadian Chinese pop singer in Beijing on suspicion of rape to deliver a stark warning against what it regards as a social ill: Celebrity obsession.rr
In less than a month, pop singer Kris Wu, 30, has gone from being one of China’s biggest stars, with several lucrative endorsements and legions of young female fans, to perhaps the most prominent figure in the country to be detained over #MeToo allegations.rr
The police said over the weekend that Wu was being investigated after weeks of public accusations of sexual wrongdoing against him, though officials provided few details.rr
Born in China and raised partly in Canada, Wu rose to fame as a member of the Korean pop band EXO, before striking out on his own as a singer and actor. He built a huge following in China with his manicured good looks and edgy swagger. He amassed endorsement deals with many domestic and international brands, including Bulgari and Louis Vuitton.rr
Wu has not been formally charged, but his career in China has already taken a big hit. After mounting public pressure, more than a dozen brands cut ties with him. His Weibo social media account, where he had over 51 million followers, was taken down shortly after the news of his detention. His songs have also disappeared from Chinese music platforms.rr
Chinese women’s rights activists have hailed the detention as a rare victory for the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement. But the Communist Party’s official news outlets have largely cast the investigation into Wu as proof that the party, led by Mr Xi Jinping, one of its most hard-line leaders in decades, defends the interests of ordinary people.rr
Dr Guo Ting, a gender studies scholar at the University of Hong Kong, said, “Xi has tried to reinvent the party as the legitimate party for the people and the party of Chinese socialism for the people.”rr
By going after Wu, she added, the party is “targeting the so-called rich and powerful, while evading the real kind of gray area of that wealth and power within the party elite”.rr
When the accusations against Wu first emerged weeks ago, the party’s propaganda outlets largely stayed quiet. But after his detention, they put out commentaries and news reports hailing it as a lesson to celebrities.rr
“Wu Yifan has money, he’s handsome and he has the status of being a ‘top star,’” read a commentary in The Global Times, a Communist Party-run newspaper, referring to the singer by his Chinese name. “Perhaps he thought that ‘sleeping with women’ was his advantage, maybe even his privilege.”rr
“But on this precise point he has made a mistake,” the newspaper noted.rr
Some of the rhetoric noted that foreign citizenship did not place celebrities beyond the reach of the law, pointing in part to continuing tensions between China and Canada as well as rising anti-Western sentiment among Chinese.