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Forget the Trade War, All China Can Talk About Right Now is Smoking Pop Idols


Well, maybe not all China can talk about — but it’s a pretty big deal. Photos of TFBoys member and teenage role model Roy Wang puffing a cigarette were leaked on Tuesday over Weibo and the Chinese internet nearly caved in on itself. The hashtag “Roy Wang Smoking” has been viewed 2.1 billion times since the celebrity — a Gen Z-er who entered the national spotlight when he was just 12 years old — was exposed.

Wang wasn’t the only Chinese celebrity who was caught smoking on camera this week though. Video clips of 27-year-old former EXO member Zhang Yixing smoking were also circulated on Weibo under the hashtag “Zhang Yixing Smoking”, but at 600 million views they didn’t attract nearly as much attention as the shots of one-time cherub Roy Wang.

Upvoted comments on the Weibo post that exposed Zhang downplayed its relevance. One reads, “This is an adult, it doesn’t matter [laughing face]”, and another, “What’s the big deal about a 27-year-old smoking? [laughing face]”


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Wang isn’t old enough to get a pass, it seems, and faces greater scrutiny due to being elevated as a flawless teen role model. His case was probably not helped by the fact that fellow TFBoy Jackson Yee is a no smoking advocate in China and that the story was picked up by the BBC, a development which became a trending hashtag on Weibo in itself.

A combination of polished media and public recognition — like being chosen as China’s delegate to the United Nations Youth Forum (a position that was handed off to fellow TFBoy Yee this year) and UNICEF’s Special Advocate for Education — have helped cement Wang’s squeaky-clean image.

Not to mention, he starred in a music video propagating the virtue of trustworthiness that was released by the Communist Youth League just last month:

Wang is one of a string of Chinese celebrities who have faced swift and firm rebukes by a public seeking to cancel anyone seen as having negative influence on society. Actress Fan Bingbing and rapper PG One are just a couple of examples, one who was taken down for tax evasion and the other for a dirty mixtape that surfaced along with news about a sleepover he had with a married actress.


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Wang posted an apology on his Weibo account on Wednesday, saying, “as a public figure, from now on I will pay more attention to my public words and actions […] I apologize again, I will take this as a lesson to become a better adult.”

Wang Yuan smoking tfboys china

Roy Wang’s apology

Comments have been disabled on the original post revealing the photos — a decision that hopefully moves people’s attention toward something that really matters.

Andrew Little
    Andrew is a writer from Dallas, Texas, and currently based in Beijing as a RADII contributor.
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