News of a celebrity's high-profile infidelity has sent China's social media into a feeding frenzy, with millions of Internet users sounding off about the extramarital affair. Since March 29, when photographs of Chinese actor Wen Zhang on a secret tour of Shenzhen and Hong Kong with actress Yao Di were circulated on various websites, the incident has become a lightening rod for Internet gossip and opinion.
Regardless of the newsworthiness of the private matter, it represents a telling example of how fast and furious social comment can be delivered in today's China.
As of 1pm on Monday, five of the top 10 topics on China's Sina Weibo were dedicated to the affair, with an estimated user total well past 10 million. A few hours later, the number one topic, "#See you on Monday#," had 7.35 million users participating in its discussion forum.
The titles of the top topics illustrated the variety of feedback: Number two was "#you should treasure what is valuable as you move on#," while number 10 asked the question ":#is Wen Zhang worthy of forgiveness?#"
After two day's of silence, Wen apologised online in the early hours of Monday, promising he wouldn't disappoint his fans in the future. The apology set a new record for user interaction, including reposts, comments and likes, with more than 2.5 million in less than 10 hours.
Not to be outdone, Ma Yili, the wife of Wen and also a famous Chinese actress, posted, "It is not easy to have a great marital life, and you should treasure what is valuable as you move on." By Monday afternoon, her post had 1.58 million "likes" and 847,000 comments.
As of yet, there has been no word, online or otherwise, from Yao Di.
Public reaction to the affair has been expressed in shades of incredulity. Wen and Ma, who is eight years his senior, have been married for six years. The couple, well known for public displays of affection, had just given birth to their second child. Most Weibo users have expressed disappointment and anger towards Wen and Yao. User "Evinest-Belief" posted, "How can you cheat? Have you ever thought about Ma Yili's feeling?"
Others have sympathized with Ma. User "My Ex is Crazy" said, "I've always wanted to find someone like Wen Zhang, but now I realise that I've been wrong. I should look for a woman like Ma Yili."
Still, there are some who supported Wen. User "LisaLiLi" posted, "Am I the only one who think they are a good match? Contrary to ethics, love is priceless. Support them at once!!!"