This article has been updated to include new information since its initial posting. Police believe they have now found the body of Yan Sihong (see information at end of this article).
A Chinese female exchange student from Shenyang, studying at King’s College in London, has been reported missing earlier this week. On Tuesday, the missing person case became one of the most-searched topics on Sina Weibo.
The woman’s family turned to the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom on Monday after they were unable to reach her since February 17. She was reportedly also last seen on that day.
On February 27, various Chinese news sources reported about the missing student, whose name is Yan Sihong (闫思宏, 1982). Yan is affiliated to the Lau China Institute, a multi-disciplinary centre for the study of all aspects of China which is part of the London King’s College.
London police are currently investigating the case. The Chinese Embassy in the UK, which posted a notice about Yan on their official website, is closely following the issue.
The news received a lot of attention on Chinese social media on Tuesday, as official state media such as CCTV, Global Times and People’s Daily shared it through their official Weibo channels. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security also posted the missing person case on Weibo.
Yan’s mother reached out for help on Weibo on Tuesday. In a blog post, the worried mother explains that Yan Sihong started her studies in the UK in September of 2016 and has always been in close touch with her family. They were not able to reach her again after their last Wechat conversation over Chinese New Year on the night of February 15 to February 16. “We have no idea what happened to her since,” the mother writes.
Media outlet Chinese Weekly (@华闻周刊) wrote on Weibo that Yan may have fallen victim to kidnapping, although few other sources currently confirm if there is any truth to these speculations.
The Weibo account of the independent media source for overseas Chinese called ‘This is Great Britain’ (@这才是英国) does say that there are leads in this case signalling a kidnapping, which potentially includes a second person by the name of Rong Luqi (容露琦) – another student allegedly affiliated to the Faculty of Science and Engineering (not confirmed by other sources). The Weibo account posted screenshots of a WeChat conversation in which a person calls for help, saying they are being abducted. (Read more about this case here).
As more Chinese are studying abroad, news about Chinese students going missing in foreign countries is more often making headlines. The disappearance of Michelle Leung in Australia, which later turned out to be a homicide case, also became a trending topic on Weibo in 2016. The disappearance of Yingying Zhang in Illinois also made headlines last year.
“I hope she is okay,” many Weibo netizens wrote about Yan, also expressing their hope that other Chinese students abroad take care of their safety. In response to the news, the Communist Youth League posted some information sheets on Weibo containing information for Chinese studying abroad, including warnings on getting intoxicated and leaving one’s drink unattended. The sheets also warn student not to go out alone late at night.
At time of writing, no UK news websites, nor the King’s College website, has yet mentioned anything about Yan’s missing.
Chinese official media and the embassy are calling on people who know more about Yan’s whereabouts to contact the local police in the UK.
UPDATE Wednesday 12:05 pm (London time): London police have issued a statement that officers investigating the disappearance of Yan have found a woman deceased at an address in Westminster. She is believed to be Yan Sihong. The death is being treated as non-suspicious. The family has been informed.
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Chinese Actor Zhao Lixin Banned from Weibo over Comments on Second Sino-Japanese War
The actor was banned for “downplaying” the Japanese aggression in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The Weibo account of Zhao Lixin (赵立新, 1968) has been closed after the Chinese-Swedish actor made controversial comments on the Second Sino-Japanese War.
On April 2nd, Zhao Lixin, who had more than 7 million followers, posted a message on Weibo that questioned why the Japanese military did not pillage and destroy the Beijing Palace Museum during the Second Sino-Japanese War:
“The Japanese occupied Beijing for eight years. Why didn’t they steal relics from the Palace Museum and burn it down [during that time]? Is this in line with the nature of an invader?”
The actor also commented on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, suggesting that it was a consequence of Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion.
Zhao’s post led to much controversy in early April, followed by a lengthy apology statement from the actor on April 3rd, in which he said he did not phrase his comments carefully enough and that he was remorseful over the storm of criticism he had ignited. His controversial Weibo post was soon taken offline.
Many people were mostly angered because they felt Zhao’s comments “defended” the Japanese invaders. “Zhao’s permit to work in China should be terminated forever!”, some commenters posted on Weibo.
The Second Sino-Japanese War is still a highly sensitive topic in China today, with anti-Japanese sentiments often flaring up when Japan-related topics go trending on Chinese social media.
The ‘Nanjing massacre’ or ‘Rape of Nanjing’ is an especially sensitive topic within the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War, also because some Japanese politicians and scholars consistently deny it even happened, heightening the tension between the two countries. For a Chinese celebrity to seemingly ‘downplay’ the aggression and atrocities committed by Japanese invaders in the 1937-1945 period is therefore highly controversial.
Despite Zhao’s apologies, Sina Weibo issued a notice on April 16 “Relating to Harmful Political Information” (关于时政有害信息的处理公告), stating that the account of Zhao Lixin, along with some others, had been closed for spreading this kind of information.
The hashtag relating to Zhao’s social media suspension received more than 57 million views on Weibo today.
“It’s good that his account was taken down,” a popular comment said: “It’s insulting our country.” Others said that Zhao should not have posted something that is “out of line” “considering his position as an actor.”
Zhao Lixin is mainly known for his roles in TV dramas such as The Legend of Mi Yue, Memoirs In China, and In the Silence.
Zhao is not the first KOL (Key Opinion Leader) to have been banned from Weibo after making controversial remarks relating to China’s history. In 2016 the famous entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang disappeared from Weibo after publishing various posts on his experience with communism in the past, and the status quo of media in China.
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Top 6 of China’s Popular News Apps
In an online environment with hundreds of news apps, these are some must-know apps Chinese netizens use to stay updated on the news.
China is the world’s largest smartphone market, and the mobile app business is booming. Chinese netizens, of which some 98% access the internet via mobile phone, have thousands of app to choose from across dozens of app stores.
To provide some insights into this huge market, What’s on Weibo has listed some of the most popular and noteworthy apps in China today in various categories, namely news, education, health, games, and short video & live streaming. Check our top 5 of most popular short video apps here. This article will focus on some of China’s most popular news apps. Stay tuned for the other categories, that will follow shortly and will be listed below this article.
We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of a variety of apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no official “top 5” charts.
When it comes to news apps, we see there’s a clear preference for the more commercial media outlets rather than traditional Chinese state media newspaper titles, and that besides gaming, live streaming, shopping, and music, news gathering is still very much a popular online activity among Chinese netizens.
#1 Jinri Toutiao 今日头条
Jinri Toutiao, which translates as ‘Today’s Headlines’, currently ranks as the most popular app in the Chinese Apple store, together with its ‘speed version’ (今日头条极速版) version, which offers a different interface.
The Jinri Toutiao app is a core product of China’s tech giant Bytedance Inc., which has also developed popular apps such as TikTok, Douyin (抖音), Xigua (西瓜) and Huoshan (火山).
The main difference between the normal and speed version app is that the Jinri Toutiao has some extended features; its layout can be adjusted according to user’s preferences and its installment takes up more space on the device.
Toutiao’s success is mainly due to its artificial intelligence functions that sources news and other articles for its users. Through the app’s machine-learning algorithm, Jinri Toutiao can understand its user’s preferences and personalizes the selected content its shows on the main page. In doing so, Toutiao is a so-called news aggregator that has some 4000 news providing partners and is comparable to American apps such as Flipboard.
In 2018, Jinri Toutiao had 700 million registered users, with 120 million daily readers, spending approximately 76 minutes on the app, viewing a total of 4.2 billion(!) articles.
#2 Ifeng News 凤凰新闻
Ifeng News or Phoenix News is part of Phoenix TV, a broadcasting company established in 1996. The media company, that is headquartered in Hong Kong, is active in traditional media as well as in new media.
According to Phoenix TV, users of the Ifeng News app approximately spend more than 37 minutes on the app daily.
Like Toutiao, the Ifeng News app also offers personalized content for users based on AI algorithms. Different from Toutiao, Ifeng is not just a news aggregator but also produces its own content.
Ifeng News is the app to consult when you want to get somewhat more in-depth insights into the main headlines from around globe. In addition, Ifeng also offers 24/7 live news broadcasts from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
#3 Caijing Toutiao 财经头条
Caijing Toutiao is an app developed by Caijing Magazine, an independent financial magazine based in Beijing that, in addition to economic issues, also focuses on social and public affairs and civil rights. It has long been known for its progressive and critical content, which is why we list it here, although some other commercial news apps, such as Tencent News, Sohu News, Netease, and The Paper, might be more popular in terms of the total number of downloads.
Caijing Magazine was established in 1998 by Hu Shuli (胡舒立) as part of the Media Group Limited. Especially in the first ten years of the magazine’s existence, it enjoyed relative freedom regarding press restrictions. But the ‘golden era’ of Caijing came to an end in 2009, when Hu Shili resigned after facing more control over news by the authorities.
Nevertheless, Caijing is still known as an authoritative news platform for business and financial issues in China.
The Caijing app, in addition to its live stream and headlines, offers rich financial content organized in various categories. The app is not only among the most popular news apps, but it was also ranked the most downloaded financial app in the first half of 2018.
#4 People’s Daily 人民日报
People’s Daily, one of the leading news outlets of China, is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The news office was established in 1948 and is headquartered in Beijing.
Despite being seventy years old, People’s Daily has adopted various strategies over the past years to reach Chinese younger audiences in the digital era. The news app, launched in 2014, is part of its digital strategy, and now ranks amongst the most popular news apps of China across different app app stores.
A large number of People’s Daily‘s news articles focus on political matters. Users of the app can choose whether they want to see the standardized content showed to all users, or opt-in to recommended articles based on monitored personal preferences.
#5 Tencent News 腾讯新闻
Tencent News, which is part of the Shenzhen-based Tencent Group, is one of the leading news-apps of China. In addition to the app, the company also has its online portal QQ.com, where they release the same content as the app, complemented with other services.
In 2017, Tencent brought the two apps together when it added a news feed and search function to its super app WeChat. This means that, regardless if you have the Tencent News app installed on your device, you will be directed to Tencent News when you enter certain search words in WeChat. With WeChat’s 1.08 billion monthly active users globally, this sets off a tremendous user flow from WeChat to Tencent News.
The majority of the news articles on the app come from third-party platforms. In addition to the news, the app features other Tencent products such as Tencent Video and their live streaming service.
In the final quarter of 2018, Tencent News users grew from 94 million to 97.6 million daily active users, making it the second most popular news app of China.
#6 Zhihu 知乎
Zhihu is no typical news app: it actually is China’s biggest Q&A platform, comparable to Quora.
In 2018, Zhihu had 160 million registered users, of which 26 million visited the app daily. Despite the fact that Zhihu is not a traditional news content app, it plays an important role in China’s online news media landscape, as it provides an open space where users get (news) information and can get answers to their questions relating to the news and other things.
What sets it apart from other social media platforms is that users do not need to be ‘connected’ or ‘follow’ each other in order to see each other’s questions and comments. Zhihu‘s algorithm pushes up the most popular content, driving engagement.
How does Zhihu exactly work? All Zhihu users can create topics or questions, and reply to those of others. By voting on the best response of other users, the app automatically features the most appreciated comments on the top of the page.
To guarantee the reliability of the information provided by users, Zhihu has rolled out a ‘point system’ that credits users for their content, profile, and behavior on the platform. By giving every user a personal score, Zhihu allegedly hopes to promote more “trustworthy” content.
Apart from the Q&A feature, Zhihu also offers electronic books and paid live streaming. Zhihu also launched the so-called ‘Zhihu University’ that offers paid online courses in business, science, and humanities.
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