HONG KONG - Photos purportedly showing a Hong Kong actor partially nude with several starlets were copied from his computer when it was serviced last year and later distributed over the internet, police said.
The photographs, seemingly of actor and singer Edison Chen in bed with singer Gillian Chung, along with suggestive images of actress Cecilia Cheung, were recently posted online, sparking a media frenzy in the celebrity-mad former British colony.
While Chung's company, Emperor Entertainment Group, initially said the photograph of the normally squeaky-clean star was a digital fake, Hong Kong police said some 1,300 private shots of celebrities had been stolen from a faulty personal computer belonging to an individual who took it to a computer shop for servicing.
"A person had taken his computer to be fixed, but during the maintenance period, someone used dishonest means to take some information from the computer and distributed this information indiscriminately to others," assistant police commissioner Wong Fook-chuen told reporters.
While the police gave no specific names, Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper reported the photographs belonged to Edison Chen, 27.
"A person in the shop found hidden inside (Chen's) computer, confidential nude pictures of naked female stars, which were then secretly copied," Ming Pao reported, quoting an anonymous source.
The computer shop was subsequently raided by police officers in a widening investigation across the territory, which has led to eight arrests for infringing obscene material laws, and the seizure of over 1,000 explicit images including six women, four of whom were public figures, the police said.
In a statement on his blog over the weekend, Chen criticised some of the recent media coverage and widespread publishing of the images.
"I would like for u (sic) to respect the situation that everyone is in and report the truth to the fullest."
He didn't clarify whether the images had been faked or stolen, but his manager said Chen would co-operate with the police investigation.
Hong Kong's police commissioner, Tang King-shing, said the case was being treated seriously and warned the possession and distribution of such images might be illegal.
But internet users and activists have since challenged this position, saying the police were being overly harsh.