Written by: Elsie Chen
Several major luxury brands have severed ties with Kris Wu, a Chinese Canadian singer with a huge following after an 18-year-old accused him of targeting and pressuring her and other young women for sex.
The accusations, which Wu denied in multiple statements, have triggered widespread public outrage and thrown his career into tumult. At least 11 companies including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Porsche and L’Oréal suspended or terminated contracts with Wu this week, after his accuser spoke out during an interview with an online Chinese news outlet Sunday.
Wu, 30, rose to fame as a member of the K-pop band EXO before embarking on a solo career as a model, actor and singer, drawing more than 50 million fans online as well as lucrative endorsement deals. Known in China as Wu Yifan, he is one of the country’s most popular celebrities to face #MeToo accusations.
Wu’s accuser is Du Meizhu, a university student in Beijing who said she first met him when she was 17. She said she had been invited to Wu’s home by his agent with the suggestion that he could help her acting career, according to her social media posts and interview with Netease, an online portal. Once there, she was pressured to drink cocktails until she lost consciousness, she said, and later found herself in his bed.
Du said she believed that this was a tactic he used to draw other young women. She accused Wu of regarding women as though they were all concubines in a harem. “You look at a lot of pictures of girls at drinking parties and select them like merchandise,” she wrote in one social media post, addressing him directly.
Wu has denied the accusations, through his lawyer, Zhai Jiayu, and public statements. On Monday, Wu said that he had only met Du once in December of last year.
“I declare that there has never been any ‘selecting a concubine!’” he wrote on the social media platform Weibo, referring to Du’s harem comment. He denied having ever seduced, drugged or raped anyone. “If there was such behaviour, please don’t worry, I will go to jail by myself!”
His lawyer has vowed to file a lawsuit against Du and report her to the police for defamation. Du has also said that she reported her accusations to the police.
Du and Wu did not respond to emailed requests to comment.
Du’s account has been met with an outpouring of support, a sign of the growing strength of the country’s small Me Too movement. One of her posts on Weibo has been liked by more than 10 million users. Hashtags such as #girlshelpgirls and others calling for Wu to quit show business have been viewed by millions.
Du’s supporters flooded the social media pages of several brands with threats of boycotts if they did not terminate their endorsement deals with Wu. One by one, the brands moved to distance themselves from him.
“This incident shows that nowadays people will no longer swallow insults and humiliation and be afraid of slut-shaming,” said Feng Yuan, a feminist scholar and activist. “People increasingly want to speak up and make themselves heard.”
#MeToo activism can be challenging in China, where the ruling Communist Party imposes strict constraints on dissent and public debate. Some women who have come forward with accounts of abuse have faced a public and legal backlash. The authorities often discourage women from reporting rape and other sex crimes.
It was unclear how the authorities were planning to respond to the allegations against Wu, but at least three groups affiliated with the government put out statements calling for an investigation.
“Everyone is equal before the law, and celebrities with huge followings are no exception,” China Women’s News, the newspaper of a state-run women’s group, wrote on its social media page. “Believe that the law will not wrong a good person, nor will it let a wicked one go.”
Du first started speaking out on July 8, when she released screenshots of conversations between her and Wu, as well as people she said, worked for him. She accused them of enticing young women by dangling opportunities in show business.
In one screenshot, dated July of last year, a person reaching out to Du on Weibo asked her if she would be interested in working in the movie industry. The person then added her contact on WeChat, a chat app, and asked if she had just completed her college entrance examination, saying that he worked for Wu’s studio and they were looking for new talent.
Du said she felt helpless when she learned that Wu specifically targeted young women like her. “Indeed, we are all softhearted when we see your innocent expression, but that does not mean that we want to become playthings whom you can deceive!” she wrote in a post on Weibo.
She said soon after that, another associate of Wu’s contacted her on WeChat to offer what she considered hush money to take down the post. When she demanded a public apology from Wu, the associate said they were considering legal action against her, according to screenshots of the chat she posted online. She said that 500,000 yuan (nearly $80,000) was later transferred to her bank account, though she had not given her consent.
In the Netease interview Sunday, Du said that she had started to return the money in batches and that she was gearing up for a legal fight.