“Looking for Leehom” has become the latest trending term among China’s netizens, thanks to a joke made on the nation’s most viewed television programme.
Chinese-American pop singer Wang Leehom and China’s top pianist Li Yundi are both heartthrobs popular with young girls. However, due to their close friendship and frequent appearances together in public, they have become the butt of frequent jokes about the nature of their relationship, despite their public denials.
This came to a head during a magic show performed on the recent Spring Festival Evening Gala. When Li whispered something to Taiwanese magician Lu Chen when they were on stage together, Lu asked, “Looking for someone? Leehom?”
Lu’s joke immediately became a hot topic discussed by netizens across China, with many calling it the best part of the entire gala.
CCTV, host of the gala, was not happy with the scene. Homosexuality in China remains a sensitive topic in the state media and discussions about it are suppressed. So, it was no surprise that when the Gala was repeated the next day, the scene had been removed.
Anxious to disassociate itself from the joke, the gala’s official weibo account posted a statement saying, “Lu Chen’s joke about Li and Wang was not planned by the producers, but rather an impromptu act by Lu.” The gala’s chief director Ha Wen later confirmed the statement in an interview.
When asked to explain what happened, Li told reporters the verbal interactions on stage were all impromptu. “We practiced the magic tricks, but the lines we said on stage just came naturally.”
Just when everyone was convinced that it was Lu’s idea to mock the two close friends, the magician stated on his weibo, “Everything we said on stage was agreed by both parties. Come on! Be honest.”
The contradictory statement just added more fuel to the fire.
One of the most tweeted rumours circulating online claimed, “After the magic show, Wang slapped Lu on the face.” But this was soon denied by both parties.
“Lu Chen, did anyone assault you? Does that person look like me?” Wong wrote on his weibo. Lu quickly posted, “I think I was hit so hard that I lost my memory. I can’t remember this. What should I do?”
As of Monday, posts by Leehom Wang and Lu Chen on this topic have resulted in more than 230,000 reposts. In a survey conducted by Sina Weibo, so far 20,240 people believe Lu Chen’s statement compared to 3,683 who trust CCTV.