Why isn't Zheng He talked about more

Film star Zheng Zhuang scandal

Zheng Shuang was one of the most popular TV and film actresses of her generation. A week ago, the 29-year-old Chinese had signed a contract as a brand ambassador for the Italian luxury company "Prada" and was photographed by magazines such as "Harper's Bazaar" at the photo shoot. Meanwhile, however, her career is considered to be over: Zheng Shuang has become a persona non grata in her home country.

Her fall was triggered by an audio recording of her Chinese ex-partner Zhang Heng that he posted on the Internet last week. It shows that the couple at the time had hired two surrogate mothers in the United States. But even before she was born, actress Zheng had obviously changed her mind and abandoned the future family. The woman in the audio recording - Zheng has left it open so far - is annoyed that in the seventh month of pregnancy, an abortion is no longer an option. Her ex-boyfriend says he has been stuck in the United States for over a year looking after the babies.

The one-child policy was dogma in the PRC for decades. Forced abortions were one of her dark sides.

Emotional waves hit high

The case brings with it all the ingredients for a tangible scandal: On the one hand, surrogate motherhoods are officially prohibited in the People's Republic of China. In addition, issues such as family planning and abortion are very emotional because of the many tragedies in connection with the one-child policy, which has now been abolished. And for the Communist Party as well as for many ordinary people, privileged Chinese who believe they are above the law and look for loopholes abroad are a red rag.

On China's social media, news of Zheng Shuang sparked a heated debate with little sympathy for the disgraced celebrity. "The essence of surrogacy is to act with a human being. How can you develop deep feelings for your child without the natural process of nine months of pregnancy?" Asks a user on the chat service Weibo. Another user writes that surrogacy should be included as a criminal offense in the Chinese code of law: "If you want to have a baby but biologically cannot, you should accept your fate. If you really love children, you can apply for a formal adoption."

Zheng Zhuang at an appearance for the Parisian fashion brand Lanvin in December 2019

Unclear legal situation

The state authorities also interfered in the debate. Surrogacy would "use women's wombs as a tool and sell life as a commercial product," the CCP Central Committee on Political and Legal Affairs wrote on its social media account. Anyone who travels abroad to look for loopholes is not acting "in accordance with the law".

But the legal situation in China is vague. Although the Ministry of Health has a decree prohibiting surrogate motherhood within the country's borders, there is no corresponding paragraph in the Criminal Code. A typically unclear solution that is common in China. In addition, surrogacy services are still openly advertised on the Internet, even if the police are now cracking down on the black market.

The CP as a moral authority

Zheng Shuang lost practically all sponsorship deals overnight due to the controversy and was stripped of her film awards. For Prada in particular, it was crucial to keep the damage to the image of potential buyers of its high-priced items as low as possible. China has become the most important market in the luxury segment against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

China's judiciary: modern administration buildings, but vague wording

The national broadcasting authority has meanwhile announced that it will ban the 29-year-old - and other celebrities "involved in scandals" - from the country's television screens and radio waves. In this respect, their case also demonstrates the self-image of the Communist Party, which sees itself not just as a law enforcement officer, but also as a moral authority that makes decisions about right and wrong.

The decision was highly controversial on the Internet. "Just banish them from the screen, I'm tired of seeing this crazy woman," writes one user. And yet the censors are also criticized. Because the actress has not really broken laws, says user Dongxiangya: "At best, it's a question of morality. To act so harshly against a citizen is not only illegal, but also a serious violation of the constitution."