Sex Photos Stir Tempest in Hong Kong

Say Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton took it all off for Justin Timberlake and his camera, who promised the tabloid queens that no eyes but his own baby blues would ever see evidence of their tryst. Say J.T. kept some of those photos on his laptop. Say that laptop fell into the wrong hands.

You might have a sex scandal on the level of what's rocking Hong Kong right now.

Hundreds of explicit photos of singer-actor Edison Chen and a bevy of female starlets — including Canto megastar pop singer Gillian Chung and actresses Cecilia Cheung and Bobo Chan — catapulted their way through the Internet after police say the files were stolen from Chen's pink Apple Macbook when he took it in for repairs.

The whole debacle has been dubbed "Sexy Photos Gate." It has touched off a media frenzy across the globe, dominating Asian front-page headlines for weeks.

Originally believed to have discovered 1,300 sex images, the Hong Kong Commercial Crime Bureau has found even more photos, as well as video, according to local reports published last weekend. Many of the photos were screen grabs of videos.

Last week, Chen, 27, issued a public apology and said he would bow out of the Hong Kong entertainment industry indefinitely.

"I would like to apologize to all the ladies and to all their families for any harm or hurt that they have been feeling. I'm sorry," the Canadian-born heartthrob said at a mobbed news conference Thursday, followed by apologies to his mother, father and the people of Hong Kong.

Chen Departs Hong Kong

It is a case with seemingly as many twists and turns as the plot of "Infernal Affairs," the Hong Kong cinema classic about the underground world of police and triads — in which Chen played a role — and on which Martin Scorsese later based his Oscar-winning film, "The Departed."

When the scandal first broke, Chen left Hong Kong. Some speculated that he departed out of fear for his own safety. Tabloids were alleging a contract was out on him. After all, Vincy Yeung, one of the ladies photographed with Chen, is the niece of a tycoon that many believe has ties to the mob.

Unlike in the United States, where the likes of Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson and Kim Kardashian have seen their careers take off after sex scandals, such controversies have tended to destroy careers in the more conservative Asia region.

In Vietnam, 19-year-old TV celeb Hoang Thuy Linh's show was canceled after a 16-minute sex video featuring her and her former boyfriend hit the net in October.

Last month, Malaysia's married health minister resigned after an hourlong sex video of him and another female companion circulated anonymously.

In this most recent case, the effects on the high-profile starlet's career remain to be seen. Chung, half of the bubblegum pop Twins singing duo, has apologized publicly saying, "I was naive and very silly but now I have grown up."

While many fans vow to stay loyal to Chung, an online survey showed more than 2,400 votes supporting the statement: "We don't need artists like this [Gillian Chung]. Please do not poison our young generations."

In Hong Kong, there aren't many privacy laws to protect celebrities or the general public.

"Hong Kong has been struggling with issues of privacy for seven to nine years now," said Doreen Weisenhaus, director of the Media Law Project at the University of Hong Kong's journalism school and author of "Hong Kong Media Law."

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