Chinese pop star separates from husband, igniting debate on divorce
One of East Asia's best-loved pop stars has announced she is separating from her husband, igniting debate over a divorce crisis in China.
Faye Wong, a Beijing-born singer known as "The Diva" who has been compared to Mariah Carey, told fans she was divorcing the actor Li Yapeng last Friday.
"Our affinity and connection as a husband and wife in this life has come to an end," the singer wrote on her Twitter-like Weibo social media account.
The unexpected announcement set the Chinese internet alight and triggered a paparazzi frenzy that saw photographers launch a high-speed chase of the singer as she left Beijing airport.
News of the high-profile break-up – the 44-year-old's second – sparked soul searching about why so many Chinese couples were now beating a path to the registry office to file for divorce.
Li Yinhe, a sociologist and pioneering sexologist, said China's divorce rate had rocketed from around two per cent in the 1970s to more than 20 per cent today and said her country's dramatic transformation from a rural to an urban society was one of the key reasons.
Over three million couples divorced last year, state media reported on Monday.
Shanghai's divorce rate rose by 13 per cent last year alone, the Global Times newspaper reported in July.
In an editorial the newspaper blamed the phenomenon on "extramarital affairs, financial difficulties, family disputes, sex issues, and disagreements over parenting."
"In the not-so-distant past, divorce was still considered shameful, or even disastrous, for most Chinese families, with a lifelong stigma being attached to the divorcees," it argued.
Now "fewer young Chinese would compromise their own happiness for an unsatisfactory marriage simply to avoid losing face or embarrassing their parents."
Prof. Li, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a rise in infidelity was another important driving factor for the explosion in divorces.
"In the past, extramarital affairs were tightly controlled by the work unit you were part of and offenders would be punished. After the Cultural Revolution, the work units no longer had control," she said.
Analysts quoted by state media warned the catastrophic surge in split-ups posed a "growing threat to social stability" and said the Communist Party was under increasing pressure to find solutions.
"I am not joking that our society will disintegrate if the family dissolves," Shu Xin, the head of the China Marriage and Family Counseling Centre, told the China Daily.
"Problems within the family is the fundamental cause of many social problems. Divorce not only affects the lives, work and families of the people concerned, it also affects their children's upbringing," he added.
Wu Changzhen, from the China University of Political Science and Law, said the situation threatened to cause a public security crisis. "A high divorce rate results in a rise in crimes such as murder and serious physical injury," he claimed.