Cai Xukun’s Abortion Scandal: Fans Flustered, Prada in Pain

The idol allegedly forced a woman to get an abortion, becoming the third Chinese Prada brand ambassador to face a major scandal in the past two years

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4:18 PM HKT, Thu July 6, 2023 2 mins read

Last week, Chinese idol Cai Xukun was accused of having coerced a woman —identified only as ‘Ms. C’ — into having an abortion after a one-night stand in 2021. Cai has denied forcing Ms. C to terminate her pregnancy.

According to a post which detailed the allegations, after Ms. C became pregnant, Cai’s mother arranged for Ms. C to be paid off and surveilled by a private investigator to ensure the pregnancy was not fake.

“This matter is extremely complicated,” the post reads. “Ms. C has been seriously injured [by it].”

ms c with proof of letters between her and cai xukun's mom

Ms. C holding documents that purportedly indicate a settlement between her and Cai Xukun's representation. Image via Baidu

The claims were later backed up by WeChat screenshots and voice recordings attributed to Cai’s mother, as well as ultrasound photos of the baby and abortion records.

On Weibo, the hashtag discussing the allegations has garnered nearly 3 billion views since the story was posted. Netizens are following the unfolding saga with a moralistic fervor, with some even calling for the Cai to be blacklisted as a media figure.

After days of social media uproar, Cai finally responded on Weibo, where he has over 39 million followers. He admitted that he’d had a relationship with Ms. C. However, he wrote, “What needs to be clarified to everyone and to the media is that the relationship between Ms. C and I was voluntary…there was no so-called ‘forced abortion.’”

Cai is the third Prada brand ambassador to crash and burn online in recent years. Last fall, actor Li Yifeng, another Prada representative, was detained by authorities for soliciting prostitutes; before that, actress Zheng Shuang was called out by her ex-boyfriend, who revealed that she had considered asking her surrogate mother to terminate a seven-month pregnancy. Both revelations resulted in major online backlash.

Prada ended its partnership with Li and Zheng in the aftermath of their scandals, though it has yet to announce a decision with regards to Cai, who is arguably their highest-profile ambassador.

cai xukun in prada

Cai in Prada. Image via Weibo

One netizen asked, “Is Prada dead?”

“Their contract [with Cai Xukun] is still not canceled…boycott all brands that still endorse Cai Xukun.”

Cai has been one of the faces of Prada since 2019, a partnership that exemplified the brand’s plan to expand its market share in China. The country’s ‘idol culture,’ a phenomenon most prevalent in East Asia wherein millions of young fans obsess over multi-hyphenate idols, is a proven driver of sales. According to The China Project, some 500 million Chinese consumers are “ready to spend money on an idol.”

However, scandals and government crackdowns in the past two years have dampened the positive effect of the so-called ‘idol economy’. Idol Kris Wu’s high-profile arrest on rape charges and the near-simultaneous suppression of celebrity worship in 2021 were a significant turning point in the power of idol culture in China.

One netizen commented, “Will Prada still dare to partner with Chinese idols in the future?”

For Prada, at least, it remains to be seen whether tapping into idol culture might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Cover image via Weibo

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