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Welcome to Sina Weibo, Stephen Hawking!

Following David Cameron, Tim Cook and many other prominent international figures, scientist genius Stephen Hawking has now made his entrance on China’s social media platform Sina Weibo.

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Following David Cameron, Tim Cook and many other prominent international figures, scientist genius Stephen Hawking has now made his entrance on China’s social media platform Sina Weibo.

On April 12, Beijing time 10:12, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking published his first post on China’s biggest social media platform Sina Weibo in both English and Chinese. In his debut post, Hawking announces his appearance on Weibo, recalls his two previous travels to China, and expresses his wish to continue communication with his “friends in China”.

Hawking’s first Weibo post soon attracted hundreds of thousands of re-posts and comments. Hawking’s official account, @史蒂芬·霍金_StephenHawking, is jointly run by Hawking’s own team and social media company Stradella Road. It has attracted almost 1 million followers so far. All messages with the inscription SH are authentic from Hawking himself.

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Weibo users give the scientist a warm welcome, with many people expressing their exhilaration to have one of the world’s most prominent scientists on Chinese social media, saying that he “will bring up the average IQ of Weibo users”.

Some people show that they are familiar with Hawking’s works, and express their appreciation for his contribution to science. But also for those who are not that familiar with Hawking’s theories, he is still a model figure. Many refer to him as a “God-like figure”, and address him with the Chinese pronoun Nin (您, similar to French vous) instead of Ni (你, similar to French tu) to show their respect. One netizen remarks that Hawking is the most cited figure in his school essays.

Hawking is not the first world celebrity to appear on Sina Weibo. Many famous political figures from the international community preceded him. The first foreign politician to open a Weibo account was the Chinese-American major Huang Jinbo (@黄锦波), who set up his Weibo account on March 31, 2009. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd (@陆克文先生) is amongst the most active foreign Weibo politicians. Fluent in Chinese and with one daughter settling in Beijing, Kevin gives regular updates in Chinese. Most of his posts are about his connection to China. As for UK prime minister David Cameron (@英国首相); his Weibo account was opened on occasion of his state visit to China in 2013, and has somehow become a platform for Sherlock fans to nudge for new episodes. Former President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy (@欧盟欧洲理事会主席) posts about EU-China relations and other work-related information on Weibo.

yingguo David Cameron wishing his followers a Happy Chinese New Year on Sina Weibo.

Besides more and more famous international politicians getting online through Sina Weibo, a growing number of other world celebrities are now also engaging with China’s social media. Amongst them are big business names like Bill Gates (@billgates) and Tim Cook (@ TimCook), prominent sports figures including Maria Sharapova (@ MariaSharapova) and Andy Murray (@ AndyMurray安迪穆雷), as well as famous showbiz figures such as Hugh Jackman (@ HughJackman) and Tom Cruise (@ officialtomcruise). Not to mention many Asian actors, actresses and singers who also have a Chinese fanbase (for example Japanese AV actress @ 苍井空 and Thai young actor and singer @ Psy_小P).

For foreign politicians and international celebrities, China and the Chinese public is becoming increasingly relevant. Politicians engage with Chinese social media as a type of public diplomacy, striving for a better public image of the countries they represent. For businessmen, sportsmen and movie figures, Weibo is a new platform for public relations to promote themselves and their businesses to a huge Chinese market. Whether it is for the sake of diplomacy, marketing purposes, or for boosting personal careers – international famous people have found their way to Weibo.

Hawking’s Weibo debut, however, seems to differ from that of his predecessors. The scientist has no specific country to represent, no apparent diplomatic purposes to fulfil, nor any explicit business intentions. As he said in his first post, he would like to share his life and his work with his audience, and learn from them through replies. To what extent Hawking’s Weibo account will actually stimulate intellectual exchanges remains to be seen, but his first steps on Weibo seem promising: China’s netizens have welcomed Hawking with open arms.

– By Diandian Guo

Read more about foreign politicians on Sina Weibo: http://news.sina.com.cn/w/2013-12-08/144828917509.shtml

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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Weibo Shuts Down Rumors of Tong Liya’s Alleged Marriage to CMG President Shen Haixiong

The censorship surrounding the Tong Liya story almost drew more attention than the actual rumors themselves.

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The famous actress and dancer Tong Liya (佟丽娅, 1983) has had an eventful year. After hosting the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2020, she performed at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in February of 2021 and in May she announced that after seven years of marriage, she finalized her divorce with actor and director Chen Sicheng (陈思诚).

Tong Liya is of Xibe ethnicity and was born in Xinjiang. The former beauty pageant and award-winning actress is known for her roles in many films and TV series, such as those in The Queens and Beijing Love Story. She also starred in the 2021 Chinese historical film 1921, which focuses on the founding of the Communist Party of China.

This month, online rumors about Tong flooded the internet, alleging that she was recently remarried to Shen Haixiong (慎海雄, 1967), the deputy minister of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the President of the CMG (China Media Group), which includes CCTV, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

Some of the rumors included those claiming the actress was previously Shen’s mistress, or netizens connecting Tong Liya’s relations with such an influential and powerful person to her role at the previous CCTV Spring Gala Festival.

But these rumors did not stay online for long, and the quick censorship itself became somewhat of a spectacle. As reported by China Digital Times, the topic ‘Tong Liya’s Remarriage’ (‘佟丽娅再婚’) was completely taken offline.

Following the rumors and censorship, it first was announced that Tong reported the online rumors about her to the police, with the hashtag “Tong Liya Reports the Case to Authorities” (#佟丽娅报案#) receiving over 310 million clicks. On December 23rd, the hashtag “Beijing Police is Handling Tong Liya’s Report” (#北京警方受理佟丽娅报案#) went viral online, attracting over 1.7 billion (!) views on Weibo within three days.

The Beijing Haidian police statement on Weibo is as follows:

In response to the recent rumors on the Internet, the public security authorities have accepted Tong Liya’s report, and the case is now under investigation. The internet is not a place beyond the law, and illegal acts such as starting rumors and provoking trouble will be investigated and punished according to the law.”

The statement led to some confused responses among netizens who wanted to know more about what was actually reported and what it is the police are exactly ‘investigating.’

On Twitter, Vice reporter Viola Zhou wrote that the censorship “angered many young people,” some of whom lost their social media accounts for discussing Tong Liya’s second marriage: “It’s now prompting a mass pushback against the potential abuse of censorship power.”

In an attempt to circumvent censorship, and perhaps also ridicule it, some netizens even resorted to morse code to write about Tong Liya.

One Weibo post about the issue by Legal Daily received over 3000 comments, yet none were displayed at the time of writing.

The case is allegedly still being investigated by Beijing authorities.

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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