THE entertainment industry is never short of scandals and the regulators in China usually close their eyes to such gossips.

But the regulators could not stay mum any longer following news that popular actress Zheng Shuang used the service of surrogate mothers, which is illegal in China.

To make things worse, she was accused of abandoning the two babies after her relationship with former lover Zhang Heng turned sour.

The state authorities and state media as well as netizens have “joined forces” to condemn the star’s cruelty and irresponsible behaviour.

Last Monday, Zhang Heng, who runs an AI technology business, took to social media to clarify stories of him running away abroad to escape his debts.

He pointed out that he was, in the United States taking care of his two children.

Following this, audio clips of the actress and her parents arguing with Zhang Heng’s parents on what they should do with the babies started to surface.

In the recordings, it was revealed that the couple parted ways long before the babies were born.

Zheng Shuang was heard shouting obscenities, saying the surrogate mothers were seven-months pregnant and it was too late for abortions.

Her parents suggested that the couple abandon the plan or put them up for adoption.

Zhang Heng’s father warned them that dumping babies was illegal in the United States.

Zheng Shuang then said giving away the babies would be good for childless families while her mother viewed that once adopted, the mother and child should never see each other again.

The Zhengs stood firm that they did not want the babies.

It was still unclear if the couple, both 30, who started dating in April 2018, got married.

However, the birth certificates of the baby boy, born on Dec 19,2019, and a baby girl two weeks later, listed the couple as the parents.

The documents were released online by someone who claimed to be Zhang Heng’s friend.

It was reported that the babies could not enter China because Zheng Shuang had refused to assist in the legal procedure.

Another twist to the controversy is that once Zhang Heng’s visa expires and he is forced to leave the United States, he would have no choice but to hand over the children to the welfare organisation, a lawyer revealed.

Zheng Shuang gained fame for her role in television series Meteor Shower. She became the youngest actress to be nominated for the Best Actress award at the China TV Golden Eagle Awards in 2010.

Although she did not make it big in her acting career, she has been a high-profile celebrity participating in various variety shows.

Several weeks ago, she appeared in Prada’s Chinese New Year campaign as its new ambassador but the Italian luxury brand was quick to announce the termination of all their contracts a day after the scandal broke.

But it might be a little too late.

Global Times reported that Prada shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange fell 1.7% last Monday to HK$46.20 (RM23.80) and further tumbled by nearly 5% the following day.

Other brands and magazines have also distanced themselves by deleting contents related to the artiste from their online platforms with some announcing that their collaborations have come to an end.

The scandal surprised many as the star has always been portrayed as pure and innocent.

Netizens joked that those who criticised her acting skills should apologise because she is in fact the best actress in China.

The news took social media by storm, with stories related to Zheng Shuang and surrogacy occupying the top of the most read stories for days generating a few billion views in total.

It was so damaging that for the first time, the National Radio and Television Administration openly blacklisted an artiste, saying they would not provide any platforms and opportunities for scandal-tainted and immoral people.

Following this, many dramas and films of the star with over 12 million Weibo fans were removed from online viewing sites.

Huading Awards, a Chinese honour equivalent to the People’s Choice Awards in the United States, revoked Zheng Shuang’s titles of 2014 Top 100 Favourite TV Stars and 2016 Best Actress in a Modern TV Series.

Her showbiz career has definitely come to an end.

What she did has also challenged the legitimacy and morality of surrogacy in China.

The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League has emphasised that the country prohibits all kinds of surrogacy.

“Surrogacy and abandoning children are against social morals and public order – human lives are not toys, ” it said, as reported in the Global Times.

The Communist Party’s Commission for Political and Legal Affairs pointed out that the actress took advantage of legal loopholes and was definitely not innocent.

People who paid for the service in other countries would not be held accountable by Chinese law.

Zheng Shuang and Zhang Heng met while shooting This is Fighting Robots, a 2018 action TV series.

Before this, the actress admitted to going under the knife while dating actor Zhang Han to appear more attractive to him. She also dated singer Tiger Hu Yanbin.