A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture.
Twenty-two fan accounts have been suspended by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo for what it called “irrational star-chasing behaviour”.
They include fans of Korean pop band BTS who crowdfunded on the platform to customise an aeroplane for singer Park Ji-Min’s 26th birthday.
Weibo accused one fan account of “illegal fundraising” for the stunt. K-pop fans are known for their ability to organise impressive stunts – frequently raising thousands of dollars to promote their idols on billboards in New York’s Times Square, for example.
In a statement, the company said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behaviour and will deal with it seriously”.
It also pledged to “purify” online discussions and “regulate community order” on its platform.
The BTS account was suspended from posting for 60 days. Other accounts supporting K-pop acts Blackpink, GOT7 and EXO – who have Chinese members – were given 30-day bans.
The move comes amid a wider clampdown on the entertainment industry in China, and fan culture in particular.
Last week, two government agencies published guidelines saying they would ban broadcasts by “vulgar internet celebrities” and “feminine-looking men” because they do not portray the values the country wants to promote.
China’s Communist Party has encouraged the growth of its entertainment industry in recent years, but is worried about the influence of celebrities on the country’s values.
Stars – and now, it seems, their fan clubs – increasingly face stringent censorship, and serious consequences if they fall foul of the authorities.
Earlier this month, one of China’s most prominent actresses, Zhao Wei, was all-but deleted from China’s internet, with her films and TV shows taken off streaming platforms and her fan page deleted from Weibo.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would disband social media groups that are deemed a “bad influence”. Attempts to rank celebrities based on popularity will also be banned.