Several major luxury brands have severed ties with Kris Wu, a Chinese Canadian singer with a huge following, after an 18-year-old accused him of targeting and pressuring her and other young women for sex.
The accusations, which Mr. Wu denied in multiple statements, have triggered widespread public outrage and thrown his career into tumult. At least 11 companies including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Porsche and L’Oréal suspended or terminated contracts with Mr. Wu this week, after his accuser spoke out during an interview with an online Chinese news outlet on Sunday.
Mr. Wu, 30, rose to fame as a member of the K-pop band EXO before embarking on a solo career as a model, actor and singer, drawing more than 50 million fans online as well as lucrative endorsement deals. Known in China as Wu Yifan, he is one of the country’s most popular celebrities to face #MeToo accusations.
Mr. Wu’s accuser is Du Meizhu, a university student in Beijing who said she first met him when she was 17. She said she had been invited to Mr. Wu’s home by his agent with the suggestion that he could help her acting career, according to her social media posts and the interview with Netease, an online portal. Once there, she was pressured to drink cocktails until she lost consciousness, she said, and later found herself in his bed.
Ms. Du said she believed that this was a tactic he used to draw other young women. She accused Mr. Wu of regarding women as though they were all concubines in a harem. “You look at a lot of pictures of girls at drinking parties and select them like merchandise,” she wrote in one social media post, addressing him directly.
Mr. Wu has denied the accusations, through his lawyer, Zhai Jiayu, and public statements. On Monday, Mr. Wu said that he had only met Ms. Du once in December of last year.
“I declare that there has never been any ‘selecting a concubine’!” he wrote on the social media platform Weibo, referring to Ms. Du’s harem comment. He denied having ever seduced, drugged or raped anyone. “If there was such behavior, please don’t worry, I will go to jail by myself!”
Ms. Du and Mr. Wu did not respond to emailed requests to comment.
Ms. Du’s account has been met with an outpouring of support, a sign of the growing strength of the country’s small Me Too movement. One of her posts on Weibo has been liked by more than 10 million users. Hashtags such as #girlshelpgirls and others calling for Mr. Wu to quit show business have been viewed by millions.
Ms. Du’s supporters flooded the social media pages of several brands with threats of boycotts if they did not terminate their endorsement deals with Mr. Wu. One by one, the brands moved to distance themselves from him.
“This incident shows that nowadays people will no longer swallow insults and humiliation and be afraid of slut shaming,” said Feng Yuan, a feminist scholar and activist. “People increasingly want to speak up and make themselves heard.”
#MeToo activism can be challenging in China, where the ruling Communist Party imposes strict constraints on dissent and public debate. Some women who have come forward with accounts of abuse have faced a public and legal backlash. The authorities often discourage women from reporting rape and other sex crimes.
It was unclear how the authorities were planning to respond to the allegations against Mr. Wu, but at least three groups affiliated with the government put out statements calling for an investigation.
“Everyone is equal before the law, and celebrities with huge followings are no exception,” China Women’s News, the newspaper of a state-run women’s group, wrote on its social media page. “Believe that the law will not wrong a good person, nor will it let a wicked one go.”
Ms. Du first started speaking out on July 8, when she released screenshots of conversations between her and Mr. Wu, as well as people she said worked for him. She accused them of enticing young women by dangling opportunities in show business.
In one screenshot, dated July of last year, a person reaching out to Ms. Du on Weibo asked her if she would be interested in working in the movie industry. The person then added her contact on WeChat, a chat app, and asked if she had just completed her college entrance examination, saying that he worked for Mr. Wu’s studio and they were looking for new talent.
Ms. Du said she felt helpless when she learned that Mr. Wu specifically targeted young women like her. “Indeed, we are all softhearted when we see your innocent expression, but that does not mean that we want to become playthings whom you can deceive!” she wrote in a post on Weibo.
She said soon after that, another associate of Mr. Wu’s contacted her on WeChat to offer what she considered hush money to take down the post. When she demanded a public apology from Mr. Wu, the associate said they were considering legal action against her, according to screenshots of the chat she posted online. She said that 500,000 yuan, or nearly $80,000, was later transferred to her bank account, though she had not given her consent.
In the Netease interview on Sunday, Ms. Du said that she had started to return the money in batches and that she was gearing up for a legal fight.
In detailing her first encounter with Mr. Wu, Ms. Du said that she had been told that she would be going to discuss potential jobs. She said that she tried to leave, but that his staff took away her phone and warned that if Mr. Wu did not have a good time, it could be detrimental to her future as an actor.
Pressured into drinking heavily, she said, she ended up sleeping with Mr. Wu. They dated until March, according to her account of the events, when he stopped responding to her calls and messages.
Since then, she said, she had heard from seven other women who had been similarly treated. She said she wanted to fight for their interests as well. She did not identify the other people, and the accusations could not be immediately corroborated.
Since going public, Ms. Du said she has been a target of cyberbullying and death threats, and that she had been diagnosed with depression. Mr. Wu’s international fan club said in a post on Weibo: “It’s a pity to see a groundless internet drama turn into an evil carnival that violates the truth and laws.”
But several other people on social media this week posted messages of support, including screenshots of chats that they said indicated Mr. Wu or his staff inappropriately targeted young women.
“Girls, please protect yourself,” Zhang Dansan, a former member of a girl band, wrote on Weibo on Monday, after sharing screenshots of conversations that she said showed how Mr. Wu had asked her if she was a virgin. “I want to be loved too, but don’t be fooled.”