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Chinese pop star Kris Wu scrutinized over teen sexual assault allegations, boosting flagging #MeToo movement

Kris Wu arrives at the iHeartRadio MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto in 2018. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
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Chinese Canadian celebrity Kris Wu is facing unusually swift fallout in China from sexual assault allegations in a sign that China’s weak #MeToo movement could be gaining steam amid the new official scrutiny of the nation’s wealthy.

In the span of two days, more than a dozen brands suspended or ended cooperation with Wu, and state media published a slew of critical commentaries, after a 19-year-old aspiring actress Du Meizhu accused Wu of predatory sexual behavior against teenage girls. By Tuesday, 24 alleged victims have lodged allegations against Wu on Chinese social media, many with chat history screenshots and audio recordings.

Wu, a prominent pop singer and actor, has denied the allegations, and his company says it filed a police report against Du. In similar cases in the past, Chinese state media cautioned against prejudgment, or at times even cast doubt on the allegations. This time, however, it reported heavily on the disputed facts of the case and discussed possible punishments.

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The change seems to be in part due to the large number of accusers against Wu and their young age. But the state media commentary also suggests a policy shift to provide less political cover to prominent figures in the private sector.

“The Wu Yifan case has escalated into something larger than celebrity gossip, into a legal case and public event with massive social impact, something that demands a comprehensive investigation and clarifications by relevant departments,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday in a Weibo social media post, using Kris Wu’s Chinese name. “This should be a lesson for us to think more calmly and decide what kind of person deserves the laurel of a ‘star.’ ”

The shift suggests that China’s #MeToo movement could be a beneficiary of the growing official scrutiny of wealthy entrepreneurs, especially those with overseas ties. Beijing has flexed its muscles over the past year against some of the nation’s most powerful companies, including torpedoing the IPO plans of Alibaba’s digital payments affiliate.

Compared to its impact in the United States, the #MeToo movement had made limited headway in China, partly because of official discouragement, including the arrests of feminist activists — until now.

The companies that have distanced themselves from Wu this week include French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, German automaker Porsche, French cosmetics label Lancôme, Chinese instant noodle brand Master Kong, and Chinese video-streaming giant Tencent Video.

“The truth remains to be investigated by the judiciary,” said a WeChat social media account associated with the state-run flagship newspaper, People’s Daily. “But no matter what, the ‘Kris Wu’s’ should recognize that the aura of being an ‘A-lister’ cannot cover up everything.”

In an interview published Monday by Chinese media outlet NetEase, Du accused Wu, 30, of luring her and other teenage girls for sex. Du said when she was 17, the singer plied her with alcohol until she passed out.

“I hate him. I hate him so much it makes me gnash my teeth,” she said in the interview. “I hate myself more, to the point of wanting to commit suicide.”

The Washington Post was not able to verify Du’s account on Tuesday, and she did not respond to a request for comment.

Wu has denied the allegations. China’s age of consent is 14.

“There were never any ‘minors’!” Wu wrote on the Weibo social media platform on Monday. “If this kind of thing happened, please rest assured that I will go by myself to jail!! I will take legal responsibility for my words above!!”

Wu’s attorney, Zhu Xiaolei, told The Post that a police report had been filed against Du. He called the report a stricter process than a lawsuit and said the police were in the process of investigating.

“We also believe it will not be too long before there will be a result,” he said. “There is a lot of information on the Internet that is untrue.”

A number of companies decided to act first.

“Louis Vuitton attaches great importance to the allegations against Mr. Wu Yifan, and has suspended the cooperative relationship with Mr. Wu Yifan until the results of the judicial investigation are announced,” the company posted on Monday on Weibo.

Wu shot to fame as part of the South Korean Chinese boy band EXO, before leaving the group in 2014 for a solo career in China. He was born in China but holds Canadian citizenship.

“Even though he’s a Canadian, China also has jurisdiction,” ran a headline on Monday in the state-run China News Weekly.

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