A developing surrogacy scandal has caused luxury fashion house Prada to drop the popular Chinese actress unveiled as the company’s face of China a week ago.
Surrogacy is illegal in China and allegations have emerged that Zheng Shuang arranged to have two children born to surrogates abroad, but then abandoned them after splitting up with her partner.
Condemnation of the actress flooded online sites after the news broke, with many calling for her to be barred from working in the entertainment industry again, says the BBC.
Within days of the scandal emerging, the Prada Group released a statement on Chinese social media site Weibo saying the “significant recent media coverage” of Zheng’s personal life had led them to terminate all relations with her.
Earlier this week, her ex-partner Zhang Heng took to Weibo to address speculation about why he had been out of China for such an extended period of time.
He revealed he had been taking care of “two young and innocent lives” – the children. He also said he was stuck in the US, calling his situation “helpless”.
His post quickly captured the attention of social media users, and it wasn’t long before media outlets found the children’s birth certificates, which showed they were born in the US to two separate women in late 2019 and early 2020.
Zheng was listed as their mother, which surprised some, as the actress has never been seen in public visibly pregnant.
The intense speculation over the potential use of surrogates appeared to be confirmed by an audiotape leaked online, in which Zheng is heard expressing frustration that it was too late for the pregnancies to be terminated after her relationship with Zhang ended.
A report in state-run newspaper Global Times said the women were about seven months pregnant at that time.
A man, reportedly her father, is then heard suggesting that the children could be given up for adoption.
The recording was met with an avalanche of anger, with many people calling the actress cruel and accusing her of being an irresponsible mother.
In a statement on Tuesday, Zheng referred to the audio recording, saying it was just a clip taken from a “six-hour” conversation.
Local media outlets suggest Zhang cannot enter China with the children without Zheng signing the necessary paperwork.
State broadcaster CCTV put out a statement saying that China prohibits surrogacy, and that “surrogacy and abandoning children are against social morals and public order”.
Many on Weibo said it was an option only open to rich people who could afford to hire surrogates overseas.