'Just a pretty face': 'China's most handsome man' sues critics

PHOTO: Tibetan herdsman Zhaxi Dingzhen became an internet sensation because of his rugged appearance. PHOTO: YouTube

A Tibetan herder who became a viral sensation in China in late 2020 due to his rugged good looks, is suing online commenters on social media who have labelled him nothing more than "a handsome face" and threatening to sue anyone else making similar comments.

Once dubbed "China's most handsome man", Dingzhen Zhenzhu is now often used as a reference to anyone who is considered talentless but good-looking.

His name became a derogatory term among some social media users.

For example, Wang Bingbing, a famous state media reporter, is often pejoratively called the "Dingzhen Who Interviews", while Will Liu Keng-hung, a Taiwanese singer and fitness trainer who recently found online fame with his videos in China, is referred to as "Exercising Dingzhen" or "Dingzhen Who Exercises".

Dingzhen, now aged 21, has issued a lawyer’s letter via his agent on Sunday warning people against making defamatory comments about him, including those containing “insulting, terrifying, vulgar, or vilifying words, pictures and audio”.

A tourism ambassador for his hometown of Litang, in Sichuan province, southwestern China, Dingzhen has already launched legal action against some of those who have made comments about him and warned others to stop posting similar remarks, according to the letter.

“Never dare do anything evil no matter how trivial you think it is,” said a statement from Dingzhen attached to the letter.

Dingzhen has become a tourism ambassador for his hometown and now has a celebrity agent. PHOTO: YouTube

Dingzhen shot to fame in November 2020 when a seven-second clip showing his “innocent smile” and “pretty face” went viral.

He soon became China’s biggest online influencer and was given an ambassador job by the local government of Litang, one of the most poverty-stricken counties in China.

Using his new-found fame, Dingzhen helped turn his hometown into a popular tourist destination within China and was invited to numerous events including a speaking engagement at a World Earth Day event organised by the United Nations Development Programme last year.

However, his sudden rise to fame was soon met with scepticism and criticism, especially from men.

“10 years of hard academic study is not a quarter as good as Dingzhen’s smile,” is one popular online comment about him, mocking how the value some people place on a person with an attractive appearance over accomplishments and achievements.

Dingzhen has already taken legal action against some commenters. PHOTO: YouTube

On Hupu, a leading sports forum in China, a survey of over 3,300 users in December 2020 showed that 63 per cent of respondents believed they were more handsome than Dingzhen.

More criticism followed when he was filmed vaping in a video that was published on social media in January last year.

“Although smoking is a personal choice by any adult, as a public figure, one should take his influence into consideration. We apologise on behalf of Dingzhen,” a statement issued by his agent said later.

Dingzhen said he was aware of all the criticism in an interview with the Chinese monthly magazine Portrait in October last year.

“I saw it, but what I thought was, as a Tibetan saying goes: ‘When there are hundreds of people who like you, there may be tens of thousands who don’t,’” he said.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.