China's internet crackdown continues with focus on 'undesirable fan culture'

The country's biggest gaming firm recently called for a ban on gaming for under-12s.
China's biggest gaming firm recently called for a ban on gaming for under-12s. Photo credit: Getty Images

Irrational and undesirable online fan behaviour in China interferes with socio-economic and cultural order, and should be addressed and corrected, a commentary in the Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper said.

"Following stars is a personal choice, but it should not cross bottom lines and boundaries," the commentary said.

It said Chinese regulators had achieved some success in "rectifying undesirable fan culture", closing more than 4,000 illegal social media accounts, removing more than 150,000 pieces of what it termed negative and harmful information, and closing down groups and topics of discussion.

But it added that fan groups presented a considerable challenge to governance given "intertwined chains of capital and interests" as well as "undesirable tendencies" including money-worship, noting that fan groups mostly comprise teenagers in need of positive guidance.

"The next step is to continue to strengthen regulation… and form long-term mechanisms so that those who cross bottom lines pay the price, and those who illegally pursue profits are punished," it said.

The commentary was the latest in a string of editorials published in state media in recent weeks calling for online platforms to rein in the over-promotion of celebrities, and for crackdowns on industries such as gaming and alcohol.

China's largest social media and video game firm Tencent recently saw its stock tumble in value after the state compared online gaming to "spiritual opium".

Opium is a sensitive subject in China, which ceded Hong Kong island to Britain "in perpetuity" in 1842 at the end of the First Opium War, fought over Britain's export of the drug to China where addiction became widespread.

Tencent in a statement said it will introduce more measures to reduce minors' time and money spent on games, starting with Honor of Kings. It also called for an industry ban on gaming for children under 12 years old.

It comes just weeks after it introduced facial recognition technology to stop minors playing games between 10pm and 8am.

Social media giant Weibo Corp has also come under fire in the wake of a scandal involving Chinese-Canadian pop singer Kris Wu, who was detained by police amid allegations of seducing underage women. Wu has denied the accusations.

Last week, Chinese authorities arrested a top Weibo public relations executive, and the company fired him over suspected bribery.