K-pop fans are the latest victims of China’s anti-celebrity culture crackdown.
Due to “irrational star-chasing behavior,” Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, suspended 21 fan accounts dedicated to various K-pop artists on Sunday.
Members of popular South Korean pop acts such as BTS, Blackpink, EXO, and IU have accounts that have been suspended for 30 days. The temporary bans follow the suspension of a fan account dedicated to BTS member Jimin.
A notice on the Jimin fan club account reads: “The account is temporarily banned from posting due to violating Weibo’s community regulations.” Some blog posts have also been removed, according to Weibo.
Weibo said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behavior and will deal with it seriously,” and promises to “promote rational star-chasing activities and regulate community order.”
President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on private business has expanded beyond its initial targets in the tech sector in recent weeks, putting the entertainment industry in the crosshairs of the ruling Communist Party.
Zhao Wei, one of China’s most well-known actresses, was virtually erased from the country’s internet overnight. Her Weibo fan page was deactivated. Her name was removed from cast lists and movies and television shows she starred in were removed from streaming platforms, some dating back more than two decades.
While the government has previously targeted individual Chinese celebrities, the recent crackdown is broader in scope and more severe in severity, with their presence largely erased from the country’s internet.
China’s authorities have also targeted celebrity fan culture, which is popular among the country’s youth. The Chinese Cyberspace Administration (CAC) recently announced ten measures to “clean up” celebrity fan clubs, including banning any attempt to rank celebrities based on popularity and tightening regulations around talent agencies and fan club accounts. iQiyi, a popular video platform, had canceled all idol talent shows the day before, calling them “unhealthy.”
Some comments on Chinese social media compared the crackdown to the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil in China that lasted from 1966 to 1976 and during which arts and culture were restricted to promoting party propaganda.
The Communist Party, which sees popular culture as a key ideological battleground, has long used censorship to keep the entertainment industry on a tight leash. It has, however, aided its development by supporting domestic films and shows aimed at luring Chinese audiences away from Hollywood and other foreign productions.
The party has become increasingly obsessed with ideological and cultural control under Xi. The allure of celebrity and the fervor of fandom are increasingly seen as a pernicious influence, particularly among the country’s youth.