Well if there’s one thing that can distract me from Game of Thrones and #BeyoncéHomecoming (less than 12 hours to go now!), it’s a major scandal. Many of you won’t know who these people are – but, please, stay with me. Because even though you don’t know the players, you’ll still find the situation fascinating.
Sammi Cheng is one of Hong Kong’s biggest popstars. She’s 46, this year she’s celebrating 30 years in the business, and while I can’t give you an exact comparison, when she first broke out, she was like the Lady Gaga/Katy Perry of the time. Like her style was different, she coloured her hair, and wore different clothes and by HK standards, she was “weird and off-beat”. On personality though, totally Taylor Swift – as in Taylor Swift circa 2008, media darling and sweetheart.
Sammi is married to Andy Hui, also a famous Hong Kong celebrity. Without getting into too much background detail, their careers started the same way – talent contests – and they started dating quite young; think of them kinda like Britney and Justin, only Andy wasn’t part of a band. And there was no huge scandal… until now. Sammi and Andy were together from 1991 to 2004. They broke up for a few years and got back together in 2011 and married in 2014. So they went through some sh-t, worked it out, and happy happy the rest of the way, right?
Well. This week Andy got busted for cheating on Sammi with TV actress and former beauty pageant queen Jacqueline Wong. ON VIDEO. You don’t have to know the language to get what’s happening here. They went home in a taxi, they were making out in the taxi, and somehow the footage got leaked and… they aired it on TV. With commentary – and a screen counter checking off all the times they touch and kiss. This is what celebrity gossip coverage is like in Hong Kong. My parents are from Hong Kong, I know the culture, and even I can’t believe what they get away with.
That was today. You know what else happened today? Andy Hui called a press conference – TO PUBLICLY APOLOGISE FOR CHEATING ON HIS WIFE. It’s BONKERS!
First of all, I’m never not amazed and amused by how big Chinese mic flashes are – look at all of them mounted up there. Second, he comes out and bows. To the media. And when he sits down, the first thing he says is that he’s called the press conference to “apologise to all of you”. I mean, he didn’t do anything to me so I don’t need the apology but, again, for those of you of western background, here’s another monster f-cking difference in our cultures: Andy f-cked up in his private life and it’s become a public offense.
He goes on to specifically say sorry to his family and friends and then admit his wrongdoing, telling the assembled press that he did something horrible and unforgivable that he’s there to take responsibility for. He explains that he was super drunk that night but that that’s not an excuse, that he’s remorseful, that he can barely face himself – and the tears are coming down and he’s blubbering out his nose and his voice is cracking and the flashes are going off NON-STOP.
Then he starts talking about how disgusting he is and that he’s been spending time figuring out why he can’t control himself (dude, it’s been a day, but OK) and that to truly be accountable he has decided to stop working until he can find himself again, to figure out how he can be a better person. Then he follows, in between sobs, with more self-flagellation because he’s hurt the people who love him the most. After that it’s a final apology, to Sammi in particular, and a reminder to all that he is a terrible, contaminated person who hopes people can allow him the time to fix himself. The video is below. Again, you don’t have to understand the language to put together what’s going down.
For western audiences, this kind of self-shaming is unfamiliar. Can you imagine an equally famous Hollywood celebrity doing the same? That said, in Chinese culture, it’s expected that when you f-ck up, you go out there publicly to confess your sins. When I was a kid and I broke something or lied or deliberately pissed off my parents, when I was bad, I was expected to hold my ears and apologise, not only to my parents but to basically everyone I came in contact with. I remember one day I took off without telling my ma where I went and she was so worried I was in a ditch somewhere, when she finally found me I was punished but then, like days later, at a family gathering, I had to tell everyone there what I did and apologise to all of them too. This is what Andy Hui is doing. He wronged his wife. He is telling the world that he wronged his wife. It’s an expected step in the cultural contrition process. To do right by her after he wronged her, he has to show the world how wrong he was, that’s the expectation: to show your shame. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, and that it’s right, I’m just saying that’s how it is. You’re seeing this in full-blown celebrity form, Hong Kong styles, here.