A Chinese film and television star has broken social media records after posting a public apology to his wife on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, for having an affair.
Wen Zhang has been married to fellow actress Ma Yili for six years, and has been adored in China in part due to his image as a sensitive and happily married family man.
But photographs recently surfaced of the 29-year-old sharing an intimate moment with Yao Di, his co-star on the popular Chinese television series Naked Marriage. The show tells the story of a young couple with a struggling marriage who are trying to make ends meet.
Wen on Monday posted an apology on Weibo to his wife Ma, who is pregnant with their second child.
"I have brought this upon myself. A mistake is a mistake. This has nothing to do with anyone else. Today, I am willing to accept all the consequences," he wrote in his confession, translated by the Hollywood Reporter.
"I've let down Ma Yili and our children. My mistake does not deserve to be forgiven, and it will be difficult for me to make amends for all the harm I've caused.
"But I want to do it. I have to do it. This is what I'll do for the rest of my life."
Weibo reported that Wen's apology received more than 2.5 million comments and 1 million shares in just 10 hours, making it the most popular post in the site's history.
Ma then responded on the Weibo, writing: "Cherish what you have at the moment.
"Being in love is easy, being married is not."
Along with his role on Naked Marriage, Wen also appeared on the popular Chinese television show Struggle. He won an award for best actor at China's prestigious Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers film festival in 2012 for his lead role in the film Love is Not Blind.
The volume of comments on Weibo underlines the relative freedom users have to focus on entertainment news online where politics is often off-limits.
Many comments expressed anger towards Wen, who has more than 52 million followers.
The topic trended above the missing Malaysia Airlines plane and a protest against a petrochemical plant in Maoming that turned violent. Censors had blocked searches relating to the Maoming protests.
Extramarital affairs are not as taboo in China as they once were, and sex scandals provide an outlet for relatively free commentary by ordinary people online, said Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Unlike political news, "entertainment news isn't restricted or censored by the authorities," said Zhan. "From the authorities' point of view it isn't good if the public cares too much about politics, but entertainment is safe."
Weibo said on its site on Monday that the vast majority of people discussing Wen's post were educated women and girls aged 24 and under.
Wen's tweet broke a record set by pop singer Faye Wong in September when she announced on Weibo that she was getting a divorce.
However, it was still far behind the record 3.4 million retweets on Twitter garnered by American chat show host Ellen DeGeneres with her selfie at the Oscars in March with stars including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey.
smh.com.au with AP