In wake of Wang Leehom scandal, Beijing urges Taiwanese artists to pursue excellence and integrity

Wang Leehom is taking a break from performing after going through a messy public divorce from his former wife Lee Jinglei.
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Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office has called on Taiwanese artists to pursue moral values and decency, following the controversy over the divorce of Taiwanese-American star Wang Leehom.

Ma Xiaoguang, a Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, said mainland China supported cross-strait cultural exchanges but said artists should build a good social image and pursue both professional excellence and decency.

Asked whether mainland authorities would punish or blacklist Wang because of the divorce, Ma did not directly comment on the case.

"We have always been supportive of cross-strait cultural exchanges and co-operation. For some individual cases, we hope that artists who come to the mainland will practise both professional excellence and moral integrity," Ma said.

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Wang is currently taking a break from performing after going through a messy public divorce from his former wife Lee Jinglei this month. He apologised to his family and fans after being accused on social media of serial cheating and soliciting sex workers.

"We cannot take people's views expressed on social media as government stance," Ma said.

Ma's comments came after Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at a plenum of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles this month, called on artists to cherish their social influence and consider the social effects of their works.

"An artist of poor moral values will not be accepted by the people, and by the time," Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Beijing is carrying out a sweeping crackdown against "unethical artists". In February, the China Association of Performing Arts, a non-profit organisation under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, released a new guideline regulating the entertainment industry.

Celebrities face permanent bans from television, film, live-streaming and offline events if they fail to comply with the new regulation, including undermining the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of China, jeopardising social morality and engaging in pornography.

In November, about 90 celebrities and social media influencers were put on the association's blacklist for "illegal and unethical" behaviour.

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The blacklist includes Kris Wu, a former K-pop star who was arrested in Beijing in July on rape charges, and actress Zheng Shuang, who is accused of tax evasion and abandoning her surrogate children in the United States.

The 45-year-old Taiwanese-American Wang was born into an intellectual family in New York State. Both his parents graduated from elite universities in Taiwan and his two brothers and other relatives hold degrees from America's Ivy League universities.

Graduating from Williams College with a bachelor's degree and from Berklee College of Music with a master's degree, Wang started his music career in Taiwan in the 1990s after being spotted by a talent scout.

Wang has received numerous awards for his songs and albums and was one of the most popular stars in the first decade of the 21st century. Some of his top-ranked songs include Descendants of the Dragon, Change Yourself, The Only One and The Sun and the Moon in My Heart.

He was fined NT$10,000 (S$488) by the Taipei health authority in September for violating coronavirus control rules after joining a dinner with local celebrities instead of quarantining at home.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.