HK police arrest suspect in connection with racy star photos

2008-01-31 20:13:16 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

An unemployed man has been arrested in connection with a series of racy photos widely circulated on the Internet that appear to feature local celebrities, Hong Kong police said Thursday.

The scandal over the photos has dominated headlines in Hong Kong the past week. The pictures appear to show actor Edison Chen, singer Gillian Chung -- a member of the popular female duo Twins -- and actress Cecilia Cheung partially nude or in sexually suggestive poses.

Hong Kong Police Deputy Commissioner Peter Yam said at a press conference Thursday that police are still investigating the authenticity of the photos, but on Wednesday they arrested an unemployed ethnic Chinese man in his late 20s in connection with the case.

Yam didn't identify the man and said his role in distributing the photos was still unclear.

He added that officers found 12 photos on a computer that would support charges of publishing obscene photos. The maximum penalty for the offense was not immediately clear.

Chung's management company, Emperor Entertainment Group, said in statement earlier this week that the photos were doctored.

In a statement issued through his lawyers, Chen criticized the distribution of the photos and called them an "irresponsible prank."

Contact information for Cheung's representatives was not immediately available.

On Wednesday, The Apple Daily newspaper quoted Cheung's lawyers as saying the release of the photos was "immoral."

A hub for the Chinese-language movie and music industries, Hong Kong is known for its vibrant celebrity culture. Voyeurism in connection with local stars has stirred controversy in the past.

A magazine cover photo showing Chung changing after a concert in Malaysia sparked a major backlash in 2006. A local magazine was shut down temporarily after it published a cover photo of a visibly distressed, seminude female, widely reported to be actress Carina Lau, in October 2002.

In a statement, the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild called the recent release of racy photos a "tragedy for Hong Kong people."