Chinese authorities crack down on local influencers peddling false stories for traffic

SINGAPORE: Authorities in Hangzhou have cracked down on a local influencer for “disturbing public order” through a viral social media video based on falsehoods.

On Apr 12, they announced that Ms Xu Jiayi, who goes by the online alias “Thurman 猫一杯 (‘Maoyibei’)” would face administrative penalties, according to local media. Details of what sanctions she will face are unclear. 

Her accounts on social media platforms Douyin, Weibo, and WeChat Video have also been suspended. 

On the same day, the Ministry of Public Security named Ms Xu’s case in a list of 10 high-profile examples of misinformation.

The list comes on the back of a December 2023 national campaign to crack down on the spread of online rumors and false information.

In February, the 29-year-old influencer and fashion entrepreneur filmed herself in a Paris restaurant, attempting to locate the owner of two lost school books.

The books were brought to her by a waiter, who claimed he had found them in the eatery bathroom. 

Ms Xu appealed to her approximately 40 million followers to help find the owner of the books, apparently a schoolboy back in China. 

“Qin Lang from class eight, grade one, your winter vacation homework was left in a toilet in Paris,” Xu said to the camera, according to Chinese news site Sixth Tone. 

Local media reported that the video, shared on multiple social media platforms on Feb 16, went viral, racking up more than 5 million likes on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, in just a few days. 

It also became the third-highest trending topic on Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu during the 2024 Spring Festival holiday, which started on Feb 10.

The next day, a netizen surnamed “Yang” from Nantong in Jiangsu posted in the comments section of one social media platform claiming to be “Qin Lang’s uncle”. Yang used this claim to spread rumours, stage photos and livestreams, as well as fuelling an internet-wide search for “Qin Lang”. 

According to Sixth Tone, people across China joined the search for the young boy and posts about the books racked up millions of reactions. West Lake District Public Security Bureau in Ms Xu’s hometown Hangzhou, received so many tipoffs, it involved its cyber police unit.

Local media and the Ministry of Public Security said Ms Xu posted again on Feb 19, claiming to have “found Qin Lang’s mother.”

However, it was later revealed that she had fabricated the whole story. Authorities found no records of a student named Qin Lang flying overseas during the Spring Festival period. 

The public security agencies later found out that Ms Xu and her company director, known only as “Xue”, had purchased fake workbooks online and staged videos to be posted on social media. 

On Apr 12, China’s Ministry of Public Security posted on its official WeChat account, warning members of the public that the heartwarming story, which had “quickly aroused the attention and heated discussions across the internet”, was falsified. 

“Currently, the public security agencies in Hangzhou, Zhejiang have imposed penalties on Xu, Xue and the companies involved,” the ministry wrote. “They were also ordered (to) apologise publicly and have their accounts banned.” 

Yang was also given a penalty and a ban on his account, said the ministry. 

A check by CNA showed that several of Thurman’s social media accounts were taken down. Among them were microblogging platform Weibo, video hosting platform BiliBili and WeChat. 


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.