Canadian star testifies in Vancouver about Hong Kong sex-photo scandal

A Vancouver-born actor and singer appeared in a Vancouver courtroom Monday morning to testify about his role in a Chinese celebrity sex scandal.
Edison Chen arrives at B.C Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday morning. ((CBC))

A Vancouver-born actor and singer appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday morning to testify about his role in a Chinese celebrity sex scandal.

Edison Chen apologized last year after admitting he took the photographs — which later were circulated on the internet — that showed him and several Chinese stars engaged in sex acts.

The photos touched off a media firestorm that rocked the Hong Kong movie industry and led to a massive police investigation into the publication of the photographs on various websites.

Chen has since refused to return to Hong Kong to participate in the trial of Sze Ho-Chun, a Hong Kong computer technician who allegedly distributed photos across the internet.

The Hong Kong court — including a magistrate and several lawyers — booked a courtroom at the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday to hear Chen's testimony.

Chen testified Monday that he will not reveal anything of an intimate nature regarding any of the women in the photos.

"They have suffered enough. I believe it's wrongdoing to them for me to state facts that I believe are irrelevant to this case," Chen said in testimony for a trial taking place in Hong Kong.

Dressed in a black suit, black tie and tan dress shirt, the singing and acting star was greeted Monday by a crowd of fans and photographers as he entered the courthouse.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elaine Adair presided at the public hearing as commissioner, but the proceedings were conducted under Hong Kong law.

Chen, 27, testified he never intended for anyone to see the explicit photographs.

"I'm quite a private person, I enjoy my privacy I need my privacy," he testified. "This was never meant for anyone else to see."

The testimony had been expected to last five days, but both the prosecution and defence completed their questions Monday. Chen will return Tuesday to read and sign the court transcript.

Computer repair led to spread of photos

The scandal began when the performer sent his laptop computer to a shop for repair.

The computer contained approximately 1,300 photos of Chen and a bevy of female Chinese celebrities either posed suggestively or engaged in sex acts, according to police.

Vancouver-born actor and singer Edison Chen admitted he took the racy photos seen on the internet and apologized for the controversy during a news conference in Hong Kong last year. ((Kin Cheung/Associated Press))

Someone then allegedly stole and subsequently published the images on the internet in January 2008.

Chen testified Monday that after he saw the pictures circulating on the internet with file names that matched those on his computer, he concluded the pictures had been stolen.

Police in Hong Kong, Taipei and mainland China eventually arrested several people in the distribution of the photographs over the internet. At least one person has since been convicted for the distribution of the images.

Authorities also called on Chinese internet service providers to filter or delete the images should they come across them.

Police crackdown criticized

The police crackdown led to counter-claims by free-speech advocates that the police action was going too far.

As a film and music industry hub, Hong Kong has a high-profile culture of celebrity akin to a Chinese version of Hollywood, London or Mumbai.

However, unlike the Western world, media coverage of local stars is generally primmer, with reportage that includes sex or nudity often harshly criticized by the industry.

Chen — perhaps best known for his supporting role in the acclaimed crime thriller Infernal Affairs and in the horror film The Grudge 2   — announced in February 2008 he was retiring from the Hong Kong industry "indefinitely."

With files from the Canadian Press