Wu, also known as Wu Yifan, rose to fame as part of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo and later became a solo performer. He was detained in 2021 after multiple accusations were levied against him, which led to public widespread condemnation. At the time, luxury brands such as French fashion label Louis Vuitton and German automaker Porsche distanced themselves from the pop idol, with whom they had commercial deals.
“It’s encouraging news, especially in the context of women’s rights in the country being continuously eroded in the past decade,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the sentencing. “Now, other victims of sexual assault in China can feel empowered that they, too, can come forward with their stories and seek justice.”
However, Wang cautioned that censorship of women’s rights activists in China continued. She also noted that, in the case against Wu, the prosecution was “shrouded in secrecy” and “some of the criticism of authorities’ handling of his case was scrubbed from the Chinese internet,” she said.
“In other words, the ruling Chinese Communist Party can take today’s victory and progress away any time,” Wang said.
On Friday, Wu was sentenced to 11½ years imprisonment for rape, plus one year and 10 months for “group lewdness,” according to a statement on the Beijing Chaoyang District Court’s Weibo account. The court said that he would be imprisoned for a total of 13 years and deported.
The court’s statement detailed that Wu had assaulted three women, who were under the influence of alcohol and “unable to resist,” at his home from November to December 2020. In 2018, he colluded with others to organize “lewd activities” with two women, the court said.
The statement said that Canadian embassy officials were present at the sentencing. Wu, who was born in China but moved to Canada as a child, holds Canadian citizenship.
The online firestorm began when Du Meizhu, the first woman to publicly accuse Wu of assault, detailed her allegations in an interview with NetEase, a Chinese media outlet. In the interview, Du said Wu lured her to his home and plied her with alcohol when she was 17 years old. About two dozen women came forward with allegations after Du spoke out.
On the day of the sentencing, Du wrote on her verified Weibo page that “justice was delayed, but it has arrived.” Her post was liked more than 2.5 million times as of Saturday afternoon. What’s On Weibo, a news site that tracks Chinese social media, reported that Du “celebrated” the sentence in a live stream and that a Chinese-language hashtag, translated as “Wu Yifan Gets 13 Years,” had been viewed more than 1.7 billion times.
Separately on Friday, Wu was fined roughly $84 million by authorities for tax-related offenses committed between 2019 and 2020, Reuters reported.
Healy reported from Washington. Eva Dou contributed to this report.