The police in Beijing said Saturday they had detained Kris Wu, a popular Canadian Chinese singer, on suspicion of rape amid a #MeToo controversy that has set off outrage in China.
The police did not provide details of their investigation into Mr. Wu. But it comes several weeks after an 18-year-old university student in Beijing accused him of enticing young women like herself with the promise of career opportunities, then pressuring them into having sex.
Known in China as Wu Yifan, Mr. Wu, 30, is the most prominent figure in China to be detained over #MeToo allegations.
He rose to fame as a member of the Korean pop band EXO, then started a successful solo career as a model, actor and singer. Though he denied the allegations when they first surfaced, they set off an uproar that led at least a dozen companies, including Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Porsche, to sever ties with the singer.
The Chaoyang District branch of the Beijing police said in a statement on social media on Saturday night that it had been looking into accusations posted online that Mr. Wu “repeatedly deceived young women into sexual relations.” It said that Mr. Wu had been detained while the criminal investigation continued.
Mr. Wu’s accuser, Du Meizhu, has said publicly that when she first met Mr. Wu in December last year, she was taken by the singer’s agent to his home in Beijing for work-related discussions. She said that she was pressured to drink cocktails until she passed out, and later found herself in his bed.
They dated until March, according to her account of the events, when he stopped responding to her calls and messages. She has also said she believed that he targeted other young women.
Mr. Wu’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ms. Du could not be reached.
It was not immediately clear if the police were specifically investigating Ms. Du’s claims. In a statement in July, the police had released what appeared to be preliminary findings about Ms. Du’s allegations. The police had said Ms. Du had hyped her story “to enhance her online popularity,” an assessment that was criticized by her supporters as victim shaming.
The outpouring of support for Ms. Du was a sign that the country’s nascent #MeToo movement continues to grow despite the government’s strict limits on activism and dissent. After Ms. Du spoke out, her supporters flooded the social media pages of several brands, threatening boycotts if they did not drop their partnerships with Mr. Wu, a campaign that quickly forced the companies to distance themselves from him.
The accusations have triggered a heated debate on issues like victim-shaming, consent and abuse of power in the workplace — concepts that had rarely featured in mainstream discussions before the #MeToo movement went global.
The authorities in China often discourage women from filing sexual misconduct complaints, and sexual assault or harassment survivors are frequently shamed and even sued for defamation. Censorship and limits on dissent have also stymied efforts among feminist activists to organize, even as trolls are given cover to spew abuse.
Yet the high-profile nature of the controversy made Ms. Du’s allegations impossible to ignore for Chinese authorities, who are always on the lookout for what they deem to be potential sources of social unrest.
The police announcement, posted on the country’s popular Weibo social media platform, immediately started trending, drawing more than six million likes.
Lu Pin, a New York-based feminist activist, said the detention of Mr. Wu was a major step forward for the #MeToo movement in China.
“Regardless of what the motivation of the police may have been, just the fact that he was detained is huge,” Ms. Lu said.
“For the last three years, a number of prominent figures have faced #MeToo accusations but nothing ever happened to them,” Ms. Lu said. “Now with Wu Yifan, #MeToo has finally taken down someone with real power in China — it has shown that no matter how powerful you are, rape is not acceptable.”
The detention of Mr. Wu comes amid a broader government crackdown on the entertainment industry.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have moved aggressively to clean up the industrywide problem of tax evasion and to cap salaries for the country’s biggest movie stars. In June, the country’s internet watchdog began a crackdown on what it called the country’s “chaotic” online celebrity fan clubs, which the government has come to see as an increasing source of volatility in public opinion.
The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, depicted Mr. Wu’s detention as a warning to celebrities that neither fame nor a foreign citizenship would shield them from the law.
“A foreign nationality is not a talisman. No matter how famous one is, there is no immunity,” the propaganda outlet wrote. “Remember: The higher the popularity, the more you must be self-disciplined, the more popular you are, the more you must abide by the law.”