Time to move on from nude photos scandal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am

Edison Chen Koon-hei's return to Hong Kong to explain his role in the celebrity sex photo scandal was sooner than expected - and necessary, given the manner in which the affair has engulfed the community. Film and music stars are looked up to as role models by young people, and his taking of responsibility, apologising and pledging to step back from the local entertainment industry indefinitely were justified.

Chen clearly wants to lay the matter to rest and get on with his life. It is a sentiment that all involved in the sorry affair would empathise with, although for some it will be easier than for others.

Careers have been damaged, after all, by a community that is obsessed with the private lives of its pop stars. Personal pictures, as Chen pointed out yesterday, have been removed without permission from a computer and maliciously distributed far and wide.

The exact details are unclear and will only emerge in time as the police investigation and court cases proceed. What is certain, though, is that Chen and the women singers and actresses whose photos he consensually took are the victims.

Much criticism has been made of the conduct of the celebrities involved. Chen was pictured taking part in sex acts with a number of different women. In the case of some of the celebrities, the pictures undermine the wholesome image they have presented to the public. But they have committed no crime. The photos show acts which took place in private between consenting adults. Sex is not dirty, as some of the media in Hong Kong have portrayed it to be when covering the affair.

Finding those who are behind the copying and distribution of the pictures and bringing them to justice is essential, just as should be the case if private material was stolen from anyone else in Hong Kong.

But there are other issues that have been raised by the scandal, such as privacy, which should now be the focus rather than continuing to dwell on the private lives of the stars involved. They have been given enough grief.

It is worrying that some in society believe that sex acts are, by their nature, vulgar or lewd. This could be, in part, down to our outdated laws and it is good that a review of the legislation is under way. That reassessment needs to ensure that there is consistency in making future decisions on what is deemed to be indecent, obscene or neither. This does not seem to be the case given the uneven and unpredictable rulings by the Obscene Articles Tribunal. A better system is needed which genuinely reflects the prevailing views in society. The review must also, however, ensure that freedom of expression is not unduly restricted.

While such matters are being discussed, the scandal itself must be laid to rest. Chen has done the right thing and broken his silence, wishing the suffering, speculation and hype to end to prevent it from becoming all-consuming and spinning out of control.

No matter how carefully advised he was in making his statement yesterday, he was clearly sorry for what he has inadvertently caused. His pledge to perform work for charity and the community in coming months is admirable.

Many lessons have been learned. The flaws in the system that have been revealed must be patched up. Those involved have to get on with their lives. They are not the only ones who have to do so, though; it is time for the community to move beyond the celebrity photos scandal.