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Xinhua under fire on Weibo for article condemning stars for publicizing family scandals

Fan Bingbing (left) is getting a massage from Wang Baoqiang in a scene from the film "Lost in Thailand". Photo: Pegasus Motion Pictures

Over the past three days, a Xinhua News Agency article reprimanding some Chinese celebrities for hyping up their family scandals to attract social attention has been widely circulated on China's social media, stirring a debate on whether it is appropriate for the state media to comment on how stars deal with their personal affairs.

In an October 18 article titled "It is disgusting for some celebrities to increase their social influence by hyping up their family scandals", the Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpiece insinuated that a celebrity is using his divorce case to gain attention.

"As an old saying goes: domestic shame cannot be made public. It is a thing that even the ordinary people know, let alone film stars. Typically, ordinary people downplay their marital problems. (But) certain film stars have talked about their family scandals on Weibo and at new film launch events to lure public attention rather than keeping it from the whole world," according to the Xinhua article, comparing those stars' behaviors to the violation of the "Chinese traditional morality" and the "three views".

The Xinhua article also quoted some Internet users as saying that the active exposure of marital problems has helped a celebrity successfully publicize an unreleased film directed by him, describing it as a "farce" plotted by the film production company in order to gain benefit.

It also criticized some media outlets, commercial websites and marketing platforms for making the use of the "celebrity effect" to enhance their popularity among readers. The information about the celebrity's marital problems was exaggerated by some media reports and was spread by Internet users, through which the film production company can gain profit, added it.

The Xinhua article does not mention the name of the celebrity.

Coincidently, a Beijing court on the same day held a pretrial conference for a high-profile divorce case involving well-known Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang, whose public statement posted on his Sina Weibo account in August exposing his wife's adultery has so far received more than 3 million comments from the Internet users, with the majority siding with the actor. A film directed and starred by Wang is set to be screened nationwide in December.

Since the release of the Xinhua article which alludes Wang, a large crowd of Internet users have swarmed onto Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, leaving comments to condemn Xinhua.

"The Xinhua News Agency is fainéant to focus on stars' family affairs and has degenerated into a 'shrew' talking billingsgate on the street. The head of (the news agency) should step down," wrote a Sina Weibo user.

"Can you (the Xinhua News Agency) set criteria on what public figures do is right or wrong?" commented another Sina Weibo user.

Some journalism experts dismissed the Xinhua article as "excessively subjective", saying that the article could not conclude that making family scandals public is "hyping" based only on an old saying.

The article has been deleted on the Xinhua website.

"It is common place that a problematic article is deleted. It seems like a stupid mistake made by a fledging journalist," wrote a reporter in her WeChat Moment working for a newspaper operated by the Xinhua News Agency. She also said that no comment is allowed to be made on a case before the first instance judgment is made, which is a professional rule emphasized by her vocational trainer.

Additionally, the Procuratorial Daily, a newspaper run by China's top procuratorate, also joined the ranks of the angry Internet users, releasing a long post on its official Sina Weibo account, in which it said that revealing the family scandals by the people involved is citizens' right allowed by the law.

The newspaper also defended Wang in the post by saying that his exposure could help prevent the false messages from spreading on the Internet.

Recently, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), China's media watchdog, issued a circular to ask social and entertainment news program producers to make efforts to prevent the publicity of stars and Internet celebrities' love affairs.

The document highlighted some news reports and programs as ones falling short of correct values and aesthetics and making negative impact on the audiences.

Earlier this month, some normal media outlets' reposting of a rumor coined by a self-owned media that the Syrian government and the anti-government forces reached an agreement to cease fire for 48 hours in celebration of their football team's victory away to China in a World Cup qualifier enraged the Internet users who expressed deep doubts over the media's credibility.

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