Singer and actor Edison Chen Koon-hei announced yesterday he is taking indefinite retirement from the entertainment industry.
Chen was speaking publicly for the first time since the scandal over sexually explicit photos which appeared on the internet. "I admit most of the photos being circulated on the internet were taken by me," said Chen, 27. "These photos are very private. They have not been shown to people and were not intended to be shown to anyone."
Chen added the photos - showing him and seven female celebrities including Cantopop duo Twins member Gillian Chung Yan-tung, actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi and former singer Bobo Chan Man-woon in intimate positions - were stolen from him and were distributed without his consent.
He said the uploading of the photos to the internet was done maliciously and deliberately.
Chen left Hong Kong soon after the photos surfaced on January 28 but returned yesterday to deliver a prepared statement to the press.
"During my time away, I made an important decision," Chen said. "I will wholeheartedly fulfill all commitments that I have to take, but after that I'll step away from the Hong Kong entertainment industry. I've decided to do this to give myself an opportunity to heal myself and to search my soul.
"I'll dedicate my time to charity and community work within the next few months. I'll be away from the Hong Kong entertainment industry indefinitely. There's no timeframe."
Chen said he is deeply saddened for society as a whole as it has been affected by the case.
He apologized repeatedly for the harm and hurt his female friends and their families endured and apologized to his parents for causing them pain and suffering.
"Most importantly I would like to say sorry to all the people of Hong Kong. I give my apologies sincerely to you all, unreservedly and with my heart," Chen said. "I know many young people in Hong Kong look up to many figures in society, and in this regard I failed as a role model."
Chen said the priority right now is to protect the innocent and young. He released a statement through his lawyer warning the photos are proprietary materials protected by intellectual property rights.
The downloading and the reproduction of the photos, whether or not with parts redacted without the consent from the owner, is itself an act of copyright infringement, the statement reads.
Hong Kong University law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming said Chen will not be liable for mishandling the photos. He could also apply for an injunction to bar people from uploading, duplicating, displaying and distributing the photos and to seek damages at a civil court.
A poll conducted by SINA.com at http://news.sina.com.hk/ received over 4,000 votes within three hours of the statement.
Thirty percent thought Chen was "sincere and had guts," however an equal number thought he was "pretending to be miserable to gain sympathy." Twenty-one percent said they will forgive and continue to support him; 9 percent thought Chen is quitting because he plans to establish himself in Hollywood; and 6 percent thought he deserved to be blamed and should not be forgiven.