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Messages of Sympathy Flooding Weibo after Death of Young Bilibili Blogger ‘Mo Cha Official’

Mo Cha was just another Bilibili user until his tragic death triggered a flood of condolence messages and tributes on Chinese social media.

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The anonymous and rather unknown blogger ‘Mo Cha Official’ became famous after he died. His death casts light on young Chinese people living in extreme poverty.

On 21 January, the name of a Bilibili content creator called Mò Chá Official (墨茶Official) first appeared on the hot search list of Weibo, shortly after news of his death made its rounds on Chinese social media.

Thousands of netizens started empathizing with this young anonymous blogger after background information about his unhappy and difficult life surfaced online.

Mo Cha Official was a rather unpopular content creator on Bilibili, a Chinese video-sharing site that is mainly themed around animation, comics and games.

Before the news of his death went viral, Mo Cha Official’s channel, which focused on gaming and anime-related content, only had a few hundred fans.

Over the past week, much has become clear on Mo Cha Official and his mysterious death as other Bilibili users and media outlets shared more information on the circumstances leading up to his passing.

Mo Cha Official was a young man, born in 1998, who lived in Huili County in Sichuan province. He first started uploading content to Bilibili about a year ago, sharing his passion for games with other netizens, but also sharing details about his life.

According to other Bilibili users, Mo Cha suffered from nasal tumors and other health problems. Although doctors advised that he needed to be hospitalized, he could not afford the treatment and surgery he needed.

As his health problems grew worse, some of his online friends suggested that Mo Cha could do online fundraising to pay for his surgery. However, since the blogger could not afford to get an official diagnosis on his condition, he could not get the documents needed to organize such online crowdfunding.

On 29 December 2020, he posted: “I’m craving strawberries. Recently, tortured by illness, I vomited out everything that I have eaten. I really want to eat strawberries, but strawberries are too expensive.”

His last post was on the last day of 2020, in which he wrote “I’m still lying on my sick bed, sigh.”

Chinese news outlet The Paper reports that the blogger and his family slipped into poverty after his grandmother became ill and the family had to pay for high medical bills. After the grandmother passed away, the family faced high levels of debt.

Mo Cha moved to Chengdu where he worked as a longshoreman, making 800 yuan ($123) per month of which 500 yuan ($77) was spent on rent, leaving only 300 yuan ($46) for food and other expenses.

According to online friends, Mo Cha developed stomach problems due to malnutrition, and the blogger complained about his stomach hurting in online posts.

Mo Cha’s situation went from bad to worse when he lost out on wages, became a victim of online fraud, and developed symptoms of diabetes.

He was last seen online on January 4th. Media reports claim the young man passed away around January 10, after which his body was found in his room by his landlord. It took about ten days before his death started to be discussed by former fellow Bilibili users.

Over the past week, many netizens empathized with Mo Cha and noted the calm way in which he talked about his life despite his suffering. “I hope your next life is better than this one,” many commenters wrote.

By now, the hashtag “Mo Cha Official” (#墨茶official#) has reached 600 million views on Weibo; the hashtag “Huili County Responds to Mo Cha Official’s Passing” (#会理县回应B站UP主墨茶去世#) – which relates to the official confirmation of Mo Cha’s death – received 620 million views.

“Really sorry I got to know about you like this,” one popular comment said.

On video site Bilibili, the 墨茶Official account now has over 1.7 million followers, with many Bilibili users uploading videos and art dedicated to the blogger. Bilibili has officially verified his death and turned his Bilibili account into a memorial account.

Besides the stream of sympathy messages flooding social media, there are also other responses to Mo Cha’s passing.

Firstly, the blogger’s story triggered online discussions on various social issues including China’s poverty alleviation policies. Many online commenters express their shock that young people such as Mo Cha could die unnecessarily due to poverty and untreated illness.

Although some think better poverty alleviation policies could have prevented the blogger’s death, others think it would take more than that. One Weibo user wrote that changing poverty policies would not have helped his situation, writing: “To get subsidies he would also need to have the right channels and have a certain level of knowledge. He probably really didn’t know.”

Then there was also speculation on the degree of exaggeration in the news regarding Mo Cha’s death, especially after stories surfaced in the media that Mo Cha’s parents’ financial situation was not too bad and that Mo Cha allegedly had a criminal record.

But one of the things that’s most-discussed on social media is the mere fact that Mo Cha could not afford to eat strawberries when he craved them most – a detail in his story that strikes a chord for many.

And so, many people express their wishes for Mo Cha to find strawberries forever in an afterlife. One of the most popular comments on Weibo in one of the threads on this story said: “Hope that you can have many, many strawberries over there.”

By Christopher Yong

edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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China’s Livestreaming Queen Viya Goes Viral for Fraud and Fines, Ordered to Pay $210 Million

Viya, the Queen of Taobao, is under fire for tax evasion.

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Viya, one of China’s most well-known and successful live streamers, is trending today for allegedly committing tax fraud by deliberately providing false information and concealing personal income.

The ‘Taobao queen’ Viya (薇娅, real name Huang Wei 黄薇) reportedly committed tax fraud from 2019 to 2020, during which she evaded some 643 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes and also failed to pay an additional 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) in taxes.

The Hangzhou Tax Administration Office reportedly ordered Viya to pay an amount of over 1.3 billion yuan ($210 million) in taxes, late payment fees, and other fines. On Monday, a hashtag related to the issue had garnered over 600 million views on Weibo (#薇娅偷逃税被追缴并处罚款13.41亿元#).

Viya made headlines in English-language media earlier this year when she participated in a promotional event for Single’s Day on October 20th and managed to sell 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in merchandise in just one live streaming session together with e-commerce superstar Lipstick King.

China has a booming livestreaming e-commerce market, and Viya is one of the top influencers to have joined the thriving online sales industry years ago. When the e-commerce platform Taobao started their Taobao Live initiative (mixing online sales with livestreams), Viya became one of their top sellers as millions of viewers starting joining her channel every single day (she livestreams daily at 7.30 pm).

With news about Viya’s tax fraud practices and enormous fines going viral on Chinese social media, many are attacking the top influencer, as her tax fraud case seems to be even bigger than that of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰).

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing went “missing” for months back in 2018 when she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal. The actress was ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion. The famous actress eventually paid approximately $128,5 million in taxes and fines, less than Viya was ordered to pay this month.

Like Fan Bingbing, Viya will also not be held criminally liable if the total amount is paid in time. This was the first time for the e-commerce star to be “administratively punished” for tax evasion.

Around 5pm on Monday, Viya posted a public apology on her Weibo account, saying she takes on full responsibility for the errors she made: “I was wrong, and I will bear all the consequences for my mistakes. I’m so sorry!”

It is not clear if she will still do her daily live stream later today and how this news will impact Viya’s future career.

Update: Vaya’s live stream was canceled.

Update 2: Vaya’s husband also issued an apology on Weibo.

Update 3: Taobao has suspended or ‘frozen’ (“冻结”) Vaya’s livestreaming channel. Her Taobao store is still online.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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