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Mon, Nov 28, 2011
The New Paper
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Was it only a publicity stunt?
by Tan Kee Yun

WHEN the news broke on Tuesday that 19-year-old Hong Kong actress Rose Chan had been groped and forcibly kissed by two of her drunken co-stars - Benny Chan, 42, and Joe Ma, 43 - at a supper gathering in Hengdian, China,many were quick to sympathise with her.

Rose's mentor and producer Checkley Sin called the two male Hong Kong celebs, both married, "worse than beasts for bullying a helpless woman".

Chinese actress Huang Yi, who worked with Rose on the historical epic The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake earlier this year, referred to her as an "innocent, hard-working girl".

She said: "I've looked at those paparazzi photos and she doesn't look like a willing party."

Renowned director Wong Jing, whose film the three were shooting, even likened Benny Chan to a "lecher" on his Sina Weibo microblog.

However, as the days went by, sentiments in the Chinese media, as well as online, seem to have wavered.

Why didn't Rose use her gongfu skills when the actors started behaving inappropriately? She certainly has no lack of them, netizens said.

They have pointed out that the little-known Rose - she made her film debut last year in Ip Man: The Legend Is Born - was not just any ordinary wing chun exponent; she bagged the silver medal at the 2009 national wushu championships in Hong Kong.

Ironically, days before she held her press conference to open up about being "molested", she was seen at a promotional event demonstrating nifty self-defence moves to flight attendants.

It's not the first time that Rose, who spent five hours lodging a police report on Wednesday, has made headlines as a "victim" of sexual harassment.

In June, she was decked out in hot pants at a function when French eyewear designer Alain Miklitarian's hand reportedly brushed her near her crotch.

Hong Kong press reported Rose as saying that Miklitarian subsequently apologised. The alleged culprits in this case also have some defenders.

"Benny is famous in the industry for being playful, especially when he has a drop too much," said Chinese filmmaker-producer Chen Zhiqiao.

"If you were uncomfortable during the drinking session, why didn't you stop him right then? Benny would have stopped.

"(Rose's) intentions are extremely obvious."

Support from celebs

Hong Kong celebrities have also come out to support the two under fire actors.

"I believe in Benny's character," veteran TVB actor Evergreen Mak, 43, told Hong Kong media.

"Also, I'm wondering why nobody stopped the incident in time, and how come the paparazzi had access to take pictures of them so up close."

TVB actress Kate Tsui, 32, backed Ma.

"Joe has always been an upright, courteous person, plus he is more than willing to guide newbies," she said, in an interview with the Hong Kong press.

"Could there have been a misunderstanding somewhere?"

Ma has issued an official statement denying any indecent behaviour towards Rose.

Chan, on the other hand, made a public apology on Thursday. With his pregnant wife present, his press conference turned out to be a weepy affair. The boyish-looking star cried and promised he would "seek medical help to quit alcohol".

Rose, whose name has become one of the most popular searches on Yahoo! Singapore's Trending list, will next be seen in a supporting role in horror flick Hong Kong Ghost Stories.

The film opens in local theatres next Thursday.

When contacted by The New Paper, the film's distributor, Shaw Organisation, declined comment.

Hong Kong Ghost Stories' director Patrick Kong, 36, told TNP over the phone from Hong Kong that "as a friend of Rose, I did feel worried for her" after learning of the incident.

Praising her as "a little girl with lots of acting potential", he added: "She was pretty natural in this fact, (director) Wong Jing cast her in his movie which they're now shooting in Hengdian after catching her performance in mine."

Rose and Ma have returned to Hengdian to continue with the shoot.

Mr Simon Kwan, who owns local Mandopop clubs The 50s and EZ50, has been regularly hosting Hong Kong personalities at his venues for the past 17 years.

"Personally, I've never witnessed an incident like this, not with the group I entertain," he told TNP.

Mr Kwan is also superstar Jackie Chan's property manager in Singapore.

"When stars such as Jackie, Eric (Tsang) and Emil (Chau) swing into town for drinks, they look after the younger stars very well...they usually concentrate on drinking and chatting," he said.

"Even when I go over to Hong Kong to meet up with them, I don't see such (groping) incidents happening."

MediaCorp actor Zheng Geping, 47, played opposite Ma in a celebrities' charity football match at Bishan Stadium in 2006.

"Honestly, my memory of it (the match) is quite hazy, at most we have gone head to head on the football pitch, I cannot say I know him well," said Zheng with a laugh.

But he claimed that such incidents are "very common" in the Hong Kong, Chinese, South Korean and Japanese showbiz industries.

"Especially South Korea!

"I often hear about them...I feel that in these countries, the entertainment scene is still rather male-dominated, so male actors, directors, businessmen tend to have their way," he said.

"But in Singapore and Malaysia, you don't see it happening as guys and girls are equal."

His sentiments were echoed by executive producer Molby Low, who helmed critically acclaimed drama series such as The Oath and Perfect Cut 2.

"The local actors and actresses I've worked with so far are very disciplined," he said.

"They are serious about work and don't really 'chill out' after a long day's shoot.

"After filming, most of them will just head home to prepare for their scenes the next day."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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