Edison Chen, Gillian Chung appear to be in pix

Celeb sex scandals are nothing new in the West, but a series of obscene photographs seemingly featuring local stars has sent shockwaves through the Hong Kong entertainment biz.

Pictures that appear to capture singer-actor Edison Chen and pop singer Gillian Chung engaged in sexual intercourse hit a popular online news discussion forum Jan. 27. They were followed a day later by pics that purport to be Chen and TV actress Bobo Chan and other pics showing film thesp Cecilia Cheung at Chen’s apartment.

While the stars’ reps insist the pics are doctored, authorities and experts were working to check their authenticity.

While police say they are investigating two reported cases of publishing indecent materials on the Internet, the Hong Kong Performing Artists Guild called for government action to curb indecent and obscene material in the media.

The guild deemed the incident not only “tragic for the entertainment industry, but for all Hong Kong people. Such immoral behavior is poison to the minds of youth today.”

The pics have also raised questions about what some commentators deemed excessive behavior by the region’s stars. Postings of the Chen photos were accompanied by a list of his other alleged conquests, and Hong Kong has in recent years witnessed two separate “wardrobe malfunctions” by actress Yumiko Cheng.

The incident has broader political ramifications, too.

As police issued warnings that distribution of such photos breach the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, operators of websites and online forums moved quickly to delete pictures and steer clear of possible jail sentences and heavy fines.

But the self-censorship also truncated discussion of the photos and their societal impact, riling free-speech advocates.

“Nothing is allowed to be discussed, whatever happened to freedom of speech? When did Hong Kong become China?,” posted one forum user.

Although the photos came down from the websites, they spread like wildfire via email and were posted to some 400 other websites.

The pics even raced across the Internet into China, despite a recent SARFT crackdown on online obscenity. A file purportedly containing all the photos was reportedly being downloaded 10,000 times a minute.

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