Newspapers have breathlessly noted the lurid details: The Internet chart room Ma set up for swingers was called “Traveling Couples,” his personal sign-on was “bighornyfire,” his orgies were sometimes held in the small apartment he shares with his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother…

Even some of Ma’s students have weighed in, posting their support on the popular Internet forum Tianya.

“We support him,” wrote one student who identified himself as David. “How about those corrupt officials who secretly have mistresses? There are so many other issues in people’s lives. Why don’t (government officials) solve those instead of dwelling on this case?”