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Charity Marketing on WeChat: Father Cashes In On Sick Daughter

A father raising over 290,000 US$ in donations for his sick daughter via Chinese social media triggered controversy after netizens revealed he did not actually need this money at all.



A father raising over 290,000 US$ in donations for his sick daughter via Chinese social media triggered controversy after netizens revealed he did not actually need this money at all.

The story of Luo Yixiao, a 5-year-old Chinese girl diagnosed with leukemia, whose father’s diary went viral with over 100,000 views in merely half a day on Chinese social media app Wechat, has been reported as a cyber marketing strategy only 5 days after it went viral. Chinese netizens’ heated debates again reveal existing dilemmas about charity marketing online.

The article, titled “Luo Yixiao, stay where you are!”, disclosed a father’s grief and helplessness in face of his daughter’s disease. It helped father Luo Er (罗尔) gain 2.7 million RMB (±391,800 US$) in donations since November 25.

The post was published on Luo Er’s own Wechat account, where other several pieces also exposed the family’s struggle with illness and medical fees.


However on November 30, only 5 days after Luo’s post went viral, other posts came up on Chinese social media that indicated Luo’s attempt might be a planned marketing campaign. The news stirred netizens’ rage on Sina Weibo.

Netizens revealed that Luo currently owns 3 apartments and 2 cars, and that most of his daughter’s medical bills were already covered by insurance. Luo is now blamed for cheating those who gave donations, and for using an ill child for his own benefit – which also negatively influences the fate of those children in China facing illness who really have no means to bear medical costs.

Shady Charity

Various sources on Chinese social media claim that Luo was collaborating with a financial marketing company that every repost of the article from the company’s public account would be awarded 1 RMB (±0.15US$).

The number of tips given on the WeChat app quickly reached 50,000 RMB (±7255 US$), the maximum amount allowed by WeChat per article per day. This limit then led to people giving money to Luo Er individually through his own account; he received over 2 million RMB (±290,250US$) in tips within a time frame of 2 hours.

In response to netizens claiming that Luo received much more money than he actually needed, Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, where Luo’s daughter is under treatment, publicized his daughter’s invoice, which stated that Luo only spent 36,000 RMB (±5225 US$) on three months of treatment.

Luo spoke to Chinese media about the money he received, and told Beijing News that he would return the money if anyone felt betrayed by him. He also claimed that the reason he could not sell his own apartments was the high mortgage price, and not his own unwillingness.

However, many netizens deem it is clear that Luo and the company allegedly helping his daughter were hiding information about Luo’s financial situation and exaggerating the child’s illness, even using religion as a tool to win more sympathy from netizens.

Later on, the focus of the online debate shifted to the question of whether Luo should give the received money to charity, and to the overall problem of immoral charity marketing.

A “Coldhearted” Society That Donated 2.7 Million RMB

Pressured by the media, Luo Er accepted an video interview on November 30, in which he cried: “I’m so desperate…Nobody cares about my daughter…everybody only wonders if I’m a liar.” A Chinese netizen commented accordingly: “True, this is a coldhearted society that has donated over 2.7 million RMB for your daughter.”

The mixed reactions of Chinese netizens expose the dilemma on charity marketing; one group claims that nobody has the right to judge Luo Er for making use of the online possibilities to raise money, while the other group insists that Luo’s behavior is immoral. They say that Luo abused his professional power as an experienced media and marketing writer to cheat the public.

Many claim that it is obvious Luo did not make his child’s illness a top priority since he did not make use of his own possibilities, such as selling his belongings, before asking help from the online community. Other netizens used Luo’s example to further question the charity system and charity laws in China.

Debate over WeChat Charity

The option for large-scale donations via the Wechat ‘Wallet’ platform has been under discussion for some time. Last year, All China Tech reported that a new charity law was to be put into effect that would ban public donation campaigns initiated by unauthorized parties after recurring cases of fraud.

But the legislation did not ban persons from privately seeking help online. Besides, the tip function in Wechat is not regulated since the money does not directly transfer to the receivers’ bank account and there is no official invoice.

Amid controversy, Tencent, the company that owns Wechat, officially responded on December 1st that it had reached an agreement with Luo that his “tips” would be fully refunded to the original donators by the end of Saturday, December 3rd.


WeChat announcement on the Luo case.

A number of Weibo users welcomed this decision, while some still expressed their sympathy for Luo’s daughter and the many other children who suffer from the similar conditions: “No matter what the truth is, the child is innocent. We wish her good health and hope she will remain strong in this complicated world!”

– By Yue Xin
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This article has been edited by Manya Koetse
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)



As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China Digital

How Social Media Is Speeding Up Zhengzhou Flooding Rescue Efforts

Chinese social media are speeding up local rescue efforts after Zhengzhou saw the heaviest rain in 1,000 years.



Social media is utilized as a tool in the response to the floodings in Henan province. Once again, Weibo facilitates active public participation to provide immediate assistance to the people facing this natural disaster. 

On Tuesday, July 20, heavy rainfall caused major disruptions in the central province of Henan. The amount of rain over the last three days in Zhengzhou is reported to be the same as what it would usually receive in an entire year.

It is reported that Henan Province has initiated the highest-level emergency response to floods, and China’s State Flood Control and Drought Relief Bureau has dispatched a workgroup to Henan, initiating level III emergency response rescue work.

Since the evening of July 20, news and information streams on the heavy rains and floods have been dominating Chinese social media. In the midst of the disastrous events, Weibo has become an online space for people seeking help, those disseminating information on available resources, and for other related activities that help netizens engage in emergency management and accessing information.

The volume of such messages is huge, with thousands of netizens seeking ways to help speed up rescue work and actively contribute to the emergency relief efforts.

The organically improvised response protocol on social media includes the following guidelines:

  • Verify, summarize, highlight, and spread online help requests posted by people from different locations
  • Remind people to delete help-seeking posts once they have been rescued or have found assistance.
  • Disseminate relevant knowledge relating to emergency care and response, and public health information, such as how to deal with different disaster scenarios, warning people about the safety of drinking water during floods, etc.
  • Share information regarding mental health and psychosocial support during the different phases of the disaster.


When posts of people trapped by the heavy rain started to be published on Weibo, many online influencers, no matter what subject they usually focus on, participated in spreading help-request posts that were not getting a lot of online attention.

Erdi 耳帝, a music influencer with nearly 15 million fans on Weibo, has been retweeting the online posts of people asking for help since the night of July 20.

The social media influencer Erdi has been kept retweeting asking-for-help posts since the night of July 20.

An example of such an online emergency help request (求助贴) is the following post of July 21st, 17:15 local time:

Our entire neighborhood is cut off from water and electricity, the water level is rising to chest level, and we currently have no drinking water at the moment. Need help urgently.

Status: Verified, pending rescue.
Seeking help: Wu M**, phone 13*****27
Number of people to be rescued: five or six thousand
Location: Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, Zhengdong New District, Shangdu / Xuzhuang Street intersection, east courtyard of Shangdu Jiayuan Muzhuang district (we can’t exit the building, there is no water, no electricity, no supplies, and it’s been 24 hours)

Once people who have been trapped by the water are rescued, the user who published the post will delete the original post to make sure other emergency posts are also noticed and disseminated.

Some Weibo users engage in organizing scattered online information in one single post, e.g. posts regarding local electricity leakage, making this information more accessible and easier to understand.

One post that was among the top-shared ones this week, is a picture that includes contact information of rescue teams of both officials and civilians. When realizing that some people were unable to upload the picture due to poor internet connections caused by the heavy rain, an up-to-date and full-text version was quickly shared by netizens.

Some Weibo users listed various methods to get assistance for hearing-impaired and deaf-mute people affected by the floods, advising people to download various apps to help to communicate and translate.

Besides the more general practical advice and emergency action plans shared by Chinese social media users, there are also those who pay attention to the importance of personal hygiene during these times. Some are sending out information about menstrual hygiene needs during floods, reminding women to frequently change sanitary pads and try to keep the genital area clean and dry due to the risk of infection. A hashtag related to menstruation during the flooding momentarily ranked fifth in the top search lists (#河南暴雨 如果你出在经期<).

Information on mental health support is disseminated all across social media.

People also try to provide mental support in other ways. A student orchestra spontaneously performed at the Zhengzhou station, where dozens of passengers were left stranded in the night. The video clips of the performance went viral, with the young musicians playing two widely-known songs, “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) and “Ode to the Motherland” (歌唱祖国). Many social media users shared the clips and expressed how the performance moved them to tears.

Some video clips that show how ordinary people save ordinary people amid such a natural disaster have also been widely shared. One video shows citizens of Zhengzhou standing in a line and use a rope to pull people from an underground floor where they were trapped by the water flooded.

In all the aforementioned ways and many more, Weibo has become a public platform for Chinese people to respond to the Henan disaster, efficiently communicate and keep track of help requests, organize and disseminate related information, and provide access to timely knowledge and relevant advice.

With so many online influencers and ordinary netizens voluntarily joining in, the online information flows are quickly circulating, allowing for necessary public communication channels while other resources and communication methods are still overwhelmed or in the making. The last time Weibo was used as an efficient emergency communication tool was during the early days of the COVID19 outbreak in Wuhan.

“Please stand strong, Zhengzhou” and “Hang on, Henan,” many commenters write: “Help is underway!”

Also see our previous article on the situation in Zhengzhou here.

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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