The popular Chinese singing reality show “Sing! China” has been suspended after uproar over the alleged poor treatment of the late singer Coco Lee.
“Sing! China” had been facing calls for a boycott after an audio clip went viral online that alleged the late singer Coco Lee, a mentor on the show, was purposefully “mistreated” and “humiliated”. She passed away on July 5, 2023.
As public anger grew, broadcaster Zhejiang Media Group announced on Weibo, August 25, that they would stop airing the show, according to CNN.
In a nine-minute audio file leaked on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, the female voice, believed to be Coco Lee, explained that she was “bullied” by the director ever since she spoke out on the unfairness of the judging system when her mentee Zhou Feige was eliminated despite having a higher score than another contestant.
“The assistants said that I had to leave immediately or they would call security. Saying this to someone with 28 years [of experience]. I have never heard of someone speaking to me like this. The assistant manhandled me … she held onto me and pulled me off,” she claimed, according to AsiaOne.
A video filmed by an audience showed Lee demanding to know why her contestant faced elimination, even though another contestant with fewer points did not.
AsiaOne translates that the video showed Lee shouting angrily: “[You must be] blind! Everyone is watching! Please tell me the rules of the competition. Why does someone with a score of 73 get a second chance, and another with 88.3 doesn’t? Can the director please explain, is this fair? Even if you won’t say it, everyone will.”
After the video went viral, Lee stated that the production team told her they were willing to bring back Feige if Lee wrote a Weibo post defending the show.
“They threatened me that they can give Feige a chance to clinch the fifth spot to return to sing on this stage provided that I write a Weibo post, otherwise he will have no chance to return,” she said, according to Asian One.
In the end, Lee made the post despite believing that the production team was in the wrong.
“I wrote it in the end so that Feige can have a chance to return to the stage to showcase how talented he is and how worthy he is to remain on the stage. I can bear the unjust treatment and make the post,” she explained.
Lee went on to share multiple other instances where she was allegedly bullied.
The most recent incident, she claimed, was when she requested to have her duet partner beside her for support when standing with an injured leg during a performance for the show.
The director allegedly agreed, only to move her duet partner away at the last minute, leaving the injured singer to stand alone on stage in seven-inch heels before falling.
Lee’s duet partner, Chinese singer Wang Zepeng, broke his silence on the issue recently, sharing that he was unaware of Lee’s injury because the stage directors had asked him to perform with his back to his partner, according to South China Morning Post.
Wang said he had behaved cowardly by keeping silent.
“The last few days felt like years as I listened to Teacher’s long messages,” he wrote, referring to the viral audio clip. “I felt guilty and regretted that I was not aware [of what had happened to her].”
Zhou Feige, whom Lee had tried to fight for, also took to Weibo to speak up for his mentor and express his regrets.
Wang and Zhou’s disclosures added fuel to the fire as more netizens call for the cancellation of Sing! China.
Zhejiang Media Group, the broadcaster of the show, released an announcement on August 20 acknowledging that the show may have fallen short of the expectations of viewers and said it would investigate the issues raised, and “effectively maintain fairness and justice in the production of the program, so that every participant is respected,” according to Global Times.
“There have been 23 mentors and close to 1,000 trainees appearing on stage since Sing! China was launched in July 2012,” the group wrote. “Teacher Coco Lee was one of the good mentors worth remembering.”
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