Advertisers flee mega pop star Kris Wu over allegations of predatory behavior

Society & Culture

Porsche, Lancôme, and Bulgari are among the companies to announce they will no longer work with the megastar.

kriswu
Illustration by Derek Zheng

Chinese-Canadian singer-actor Kris Wu (Wú Yìfán 吴亦凡), who is perhaps best known for being a former member of the South Korean boy band EXO, has lost more than a dozen brand endorsement deals after multiple women came forward with allegations of him being emotionally abusive towards them and having sexual relations with underage girls. Wu has denied the accusations via social media.

The scandal began about two weeks ago when Dōu Měizhú 都美竹, a 19-year-old college student, alleged in a Weibo post (in Chinese) that the 30-year-old pop star was a serial sexual predator who cheated on her when she thought they were dating exclusively. Du also revealed that Wu frequently organized alcohol-fueled parties, where he lured aspiring models and actresses, some of whom were underage girls, into inappropriate sexual relationships with promises of fame and opportunities in the entertainment industry.

“I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that you were in love with multiple women at the same time, and I was just one of them,” Du wrote, adding that she had suffered suicidal thoughts due to Wu’s unfaithful behavior, and cyberbullying from his fans. 

To back up her claim, Du accompanied her post with screenshots of alleged conversations between Wu and other victims like her, writing that she “felt the need to speak up for all the underge girls that Wu had deceived in the past.” 

Wu swiftly denied the accusations. In a statement released on July 8, Wu’s team accused Du of spreading false rumors and announced they had filed a defamation lawsuit against Du.

But Du refused to budge. In a damning interview (in Chinese) published by NetEase over the weekend, the accuser disclosed that instead of taking her to court, Wu’s team actually wired her 500,000 yuan ($77,000) on WeChat as a cash settlement, which she had never agreed to (she says she paid back the money). Du also noted that since she went public with her experience, more than seven other women had reached out to her with similar stories about Wu’s alleged predatory behavior, including two underage girls. 

“Situations involving minors can be legal or illegal. But they are so young and terrified. We are trying our best here,” Du said. The legal age of sexual consent in China is 14.

When asked how Wu found and approached his targets, Du said that some victims were seduced by Wu with false promises of career advancement after going to his hotel room for what they thought were casting meetings. Du also alleged that the mega star asked heads of his fan communities to arrange in-person meet-and-greets with followers who were “young and pretty,” and that Wu regularly told women with whom he had sexual relationships to introduce their friends to his network, and rewarded them with expensive gifts or cash payments.

As the scandal gained traction, a growing list of women spoke out about their alleged encounters with Wu, most of which involved him allegedly being manipulative, emotionally abusive, and predatory in his behavior. Zhāng Dānsān 张丹三, a member of the Chinese idol girl group SNH48, wrote on Weibo (in Chinese) that after they had established communication through a mutual friend, Wu had been bombarding her with messages on WeChat, constantly asking about her dating history, and suggesting that they should meet up in-person. Zhang’s post also included a series of screenshots of alleged conversations between the two, in which Wu at one point asks Zhang if she’s a virgin.

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In response to the mounting accusations, Wu, who holds Canadian citizenship and spent his childhood and teenage years between Vancouver and Guangzhou, denied wrongdoing today by saying that he had only met Du once at a social setting and that all the details in her story were fabricated. “If there was such behavior, please rest assured, I would walk into prison myself. I take all legal responsibility for my above words,” Wu wrote on Weibo (in Chinese).

Despite his attempts at damage control, Wu’s professional career has already taken a significant blow. As of this writing, more than a dozen companies, domestic and international, have cut ties (in Chinese) with the celebrity, including luxury vehicle manufacturer Porsche, French cosmetics house Lancôme, and Italian jewelry brand Bulgari.

Wu first rose to stardom nearly a decade ago as a member of the enormously popular South Korean-Chinese supergroup EXO, where he was leader of the group’s Mandarin sub-unit EXO-M. In 2014, he parted ways with EXO and set his sights on a solo career in China. Since then, Wu has released several albums, and appeared on a plethora of Chinese variety shows and big-budget movies.

This is not the first time that controversial claims have surfaced regarding Wu’s personal life. In 2016, Wu was embroiled in a sex scandal where a then 19-year-old influencer publically accused the artist of playing with her feelings and using her for sex while sleeping with other women. 

Back then, Wu emerged relatively unscathed from the scandal. But this time, as accusations continued to roll in and the whole controversy took over the Chinese internet, a vast number of people called on producers and business partners to drop the artist and asked him to leave the country. “He needs to serve jail time first and be deported back to Canada,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

In what appears to be a #MeToo reckoning for Wu, stories shared by Du and other alleged victims have prompted an outpouring of solidarity on social media under the hashtags like #WithDuMeizhu# and #GirlsHelpGirls#. In a country where women are generally discouraged from sharing their stories about sexual harassment and assault, where gender equality is still deeply entrenched and social protest is swiftly stifled, the explosion of support that Du received is largely due to a number of feminist voices that planted powerful seeds for change in the past few years.

In one of the first examples of Chinese women accusing well-known figures of sexual misconduct, Zhou Xiaoxuan (she has not revealed the Chinese characters of her name, but she is known in China by her nickname Xiánzǐ 弦子), a 27-year-old screenwriter in Beijing, went public in 2018 with accusations that famous TV anchor Zhū Jūn 朱军 groped and forcibly kissed her when she was an intern at the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in 2014. Last year, a Beijing court started hearing Zhou’s case, but her legal battle is unlikely to end soon as the second hearing was abruptly cancelled in May.

Perhaps inspired by Zhou, Du said in her latest Weibo posts that she’s determined to seek justice and accountability for the harm that has been caused to her and other alleged victims. “Be prepared for the final battle, Mr. Wu,” Du wrote (in Chinese) today. “Step up and face things head on, like a man.”