Well, we tried to pretend we were above it (who were we fooling, anyway?), but the make-out sesh heard ’round the SAR can no longer be ignored.
If you’ve been in Hong Kong for the last 24 hours, it may have felt as though you were trapped within the four walls of the purported love rectangle between singer Andy Hui and actress Jacqueline Wong — who were caught on camera getting frisky — and their respective significant others, Cantopop queen Sammi Cheng and actor Kenneth Ma.
Now, the gravitational pull of the gossip has become such that everyone from multinational corporations to the Buildings Department have been sucked into its orbit, promoting their services and initiatives with winking memes referencing the furor.
If, by some miracle, you missed the news (say, for instance, you’re an Amish teen whose rumspringa began today — in which case, welcome to the internet!), here’s a recap.
The inescapable vortex of celebrity scandal began to swirl on Tuesday morning, when Apple Daily published on their website a 15-minute video — taken from inside either a cab or a private hire car — showing Hui getting all loved-up with Wong earlier this month. The video even features a counter on the side of the screen showing the number of times the pair touch and kiss (at least 20).
The only problem is both are attached to other people: Hui, 51, is married to Cheng, 46, and Wong, 30, is dating Ma, 45.
The video tore across the internet like wildfire, with Apple Daily racking up some 380,000 new subscribers in mere hours after the video was posted.
Things came to a head on Tuesday evening when Hui gave a tearful press conference apologizing to the public, his friends, his family, and, most importantly, to his wife for his actions. He even went so far as to call himself “a scumbag.” He admitted that he had had a lot to drink at the time and was having “lecherous thoughts,” but maintained that that was not an excuse. He also told reporters that he would be taking a break from work in order to “recover his true self.”
Cheng, who is currently preparing for her #FOLLOWMI tour in July, has yet to publicly respond to the scandal. Ma has also yet to make a public statement.
The nature of the video has prompted concerns from the city’s former privacy commissioner that Apple Daily may have broken the law, and lawmakers have called on authorities to draw up guidelines requiring taxis to make it known if they have cameras installed. The Hong Kong Taxi Council, meanwhile, has said that the camera definitely wasn’t one approved by transportation authorities, and called for penalties for any cabbies who misuse onboard cameras.
In fact, it seems as though the only person who didn’t have anything to say about the hullabaloo was Kenneth Ma’s mom, who was doorstopped by reporters yesterday and professed not to know what was going on, saying she hadn’t seen Wong since Chinese New Year. When asked by reporters if she liked Wong, she described her as “ordinary.”
The lip-lock-alypse has generated such a gargantuan response (even by celebrity scandal standards) thanks, in part, to Hui and Cheng’s unassailable status as Cantopop dream couple. Both became big names as teenagers in the early ’90s, carrying on an on-again-off-again romance for three decades before marrying in 2013. (Their relationship was perceived as being so perfect, they were once referred to as “Hong Kong’s last fairy tale.”)
Now, with Hui, Cheng, Wong, and Ma presumably all reeling from the ongoing furor, everyone from message board wiseguys to government agencies has been weighing in with meme-ifications of the scandal.
HK Golden was quick to pounce with a parody of a music video for Hui’s song Yesterday’s Person, which actually starred Ma. (Ouch.)
While the original is a sappy-but-hopeful love ballad, the parody features lines about the car’s dash cam capturing everything, and kissing until the driver tells them to stop.
Bus operator Kowloon Motorbus also got in on the action (and the presumably publicity boost) by releasing a cartoon image of two rats dressed identically to Hui and Wong eating cheese on a bus with the caption “Stealing a bite to eat is a sin” — a reminder to riders that eating on public transport is not allowed. The phrase “stealing a bite to eat” is also Cantonese slang for cheating on someone. (OK, solid wordplay, Kowloon Motorbus.)
Other companies to join the social media pile-on have included Kraft Heinz promoting their peanuts, a hotpoint joint posting a pic of a wet wipe featuring the old “steal a bite to eat” pun, San Miguel winkingly reminding people to drink responsibly, Durex pumping out an apparently hastily photoshopped visual allusion to the infamous taxi shot, and Hong Kong home store Pricerite appearing to take advantage of the publicity to flog face masks similar to the one Wong was wearing.
The internet also set its sights on Ma, who, in an almost cosmically unfortunate coincidence, currently plays the protagonist of a TV show called Exorcist’s Meter about a ghost-hunting taxi driver. Screenshots and posters quickly became fodder for netizens, who photoshopped Hui and Wong into the back seat of his cab.
Meanwhile, a photo of Ma and Hui taken when they were filming their music video collab has also been doing the rounds, with Ma wearing a photoshopped green hat on his head, a reference to the Chinese phrase “wearing a green hat,” which is slang for being cuckolded.
The government, not wanting to be left out of the fun, starting putting out its own memes. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) published a picture their bizarre bird mascot color-corrected to mimic the night vision aesthetic of the make-out clip with the caption: “Don’t think you can cheat by keeping things secret. Digital footprints and cameras are everywhere. It’s not hard to find evidence for corruption. It’s not easy to get away with it.”
The city’s Buildings Department, which is responsible for building safety and inspections, also leapt into the fray, posting a cartoon of a building holding a tearful press conference with the caption: “As a building that is in disrepair, I have to say sorry to the public. This is a complete mistake. I feel so ashamed and sad. Please give me the time and space to carry out repairs and start again, I promise you that you will be able to live in peace in the future!”
Some people, however, questioned the appropriateness of using a group of people’s personal tribulations for comedic and commercial gain.
Former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping told the South China Morning Post that, for government agencies in particular, piggy-backing off of the scandal was in poor taste, especially given the legitimate privacy concerns raised by the video’s release.
“If the privacy issue is not mentioned, the incident itself, which is inappropriate, will be portrayed as appropriate. The government shouldn’t do this,” he said.