Chinese star vanishes after Aussie stunt

A stunt involving one of Australia’s most iconic desserts has backfired for a popular Chinese influencer, who has since disappeared.

One of China’s best-loved influencers has vanished after a costly error during a livestreamed stunt involving a classic Aussie ice cream.

Austin Li is officially China’s most popular live-streamer, and he has attracted 64 million followers by selling products on Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao.

To put his vast influence into perspective, he once sold 15,000 lipsticks in just five minutes in 2018, earning him the nickname the “lipstick king”.

But on June 3, Li was in the middle of yet another live-streamed sales event when a stunt went seriously wrong, leaving his fortune and reputation in doubt.

That night, Li was selling ice cream – believed to be cult Aussie favourite Viennetta.

During the segment, a team member handed Li the dessert decorated with cookies and chocolates to resemble a military tank.

Then, the stream was turned off.

Li posted an apology on China’s social media platform Weibo, claiming he was facing a “technical glitch” before later confirming the event had been terminated due to “a failure of our internal equipment”.

“Everybody please go to bed early. We will bring you the products that have not been broadcast (tonight) in future livestreams,” he wrote.

But Li hasn’t been heard from since, sparking fears about his future after he failed to deliver any new livestreams, and was also a no-show for another pre-scheduled show.

Searches for his name on Taobao also come up empty.

While on the surface it might have seemed like nothing more than a decorated cake, it turns out that the stunt fell foul of China’s special censorship system concerning the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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In 1989, students held pro-democracy demonstrations in the square in Beijing starting on April 15, and ending on June 4, when troops opened fire and killed thousands of unarmed protesters, according to some estimates.

To this day, the topic is highly sensitive in China, with information about the massacre wiped from history books and posts regularly being scrubbed from the internet as part of the so-called “Great Firewall” – China’s massive online censorship network.

Experts believe the tank-shaped cake triggered a crackdown by officials for violating the censorship rules, given it coincided with the 33rd Tiananmen Square anniversary.

Many have also speculated that 30-year-old Li was unaware of his faux pas, given Chinese people born after the massacre know very little about it, as no records are available.

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