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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 12:46 GMT
Sex scandal grips Taiwan
Chu Mei-feng talks to reporters [Photo by Henry Tan]
Chu Mei-feng has spoken to reporters [Photo by Henry Tan]
By Michael Bristow in Taipei

The Taiwanese have been gripped in recent weeks by allegations of a sex scandal involving a public figure.

The affair surrounds Chu Mei-feng, a former politician and civil servant who has apparently been filmed by a secret camera having sex with her married lover.

Just before Christmas, a story about the incident was published by the tabloid-style magazine Scoop Weekly.

The video given away free with Scoop Weekly was quickly taken off the shelves
People are desperate to get hold of the video
It also gave away a free 40-minute video of the bedroom antics.

The government quickly pulled the video from newsagent shelves - although the magazine itself was left alone - saying the publishers had broken laws that ban the sale of indecent material. But that has only served to give the scandal more publicity.

Each day brings fresh allegations and comments from the people involved, and the video itself has become the holiday season's most wanted item, with people desperate to get their hands on it.

When the scandal first erupted, black market copies were being sold for up to $30, and they are even reported to be on sale in China.

Tearful speech

The affair has also ignited a more serious debate about just how far tabloid journalists should be allowed to pry into people's private lives, with impassioned debate on both sides of the fence.

Everybody's going really crazy over this at the moment

Lisa Chen, teacher
Chu Mei-feng, who stood as a candidate in December's parliamentary elections for the New Party, was allegedly filmed using a pinhole camera. Police officers are reported to have found 10 recording devices hidden in her home, office and car.

A few days after the news broke, the 36-year-old, who was also the director of the cultural affairs bureau in Hsinchu County, spoke to reporters outside her home, telling them she had kept "bad company and erred" before collapsing in tears. She was then rushed to hospital.

Police officers investigating the case have arrested Kuo Yu-ling, a "spiritual growth instructor" and Ms Chu's former friend, as the prime suspect behind the sex video.

The affair has also dragged in the former mayor of Hsinchu, Tsai Jen-chien, who had a romantic relationship with Ms Chu for four years. He has denied having anything to do with the sex video, but has told reporters he wants investigators to question him to remove suspicion.

'Too sleazy'

It seems there is nothing like a sex scandal to grab people's interest. The affair has overshadowed more serious issues, such as Taiwan's faltering economy and its official entry into the World Trade Organisation on 1 January.

Lisa Chen, who runs a Taipei school, is just one of many people who have been absorbed by the scandal. She was given a copy of the sex video by a friend.

"Everybody's going really crazy over this at the moment," said the 33-year-old.

She and her friends have even been giving the video's stars marks out of 10 for their performances.

But many people, including women's groups, say the press is becoming increasingly sleazy and has gone too far this time.

Laurence Eyton, managing editor of the English-language newspaper Taipei Times, said the press had gone downmarket.

"Before, newspapers were sensationalist, but within certain limits," said Mr Eyton. "There was a kind of self-censorship."

But he added the benefit could be that reporters might now use their new-found investigative skills to look into more serious issues, such as widespread corruption across Taiwan.

As for Chu Mei-feng, whatever the truth about the allegations, she now has the difficult and unenviable task of rebuilding her battered reputation.

See also:

22 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan sex scandal politician quits
06 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Taiwan
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