Leading Chinese social media platform Weibo has suspended nearly two dozen fan accounts for BTS, Blackpink and other major K-pop acts amidst a call from authorities to rein in “excessive” fan culture.
The crackdown began days after photos began to circulate of a customized Jeju Air jet funded by a popular Chinese Weibo fan account for BTS member Jimin. Decked out in photos of the star and a declaration of “eternal love,” the plane was intended as a crowd-funded birthday gift to fete his upcoming 26th birthday in October.
Within hours, the platform said that due to online complaints, it would also place a month-long suspension on 21 other K-pop fan accounts, including four celebrating BTS, three related to Blackpink, three about EXO and five tied to boy band NCT.
Weibo said in an explanatory statement that it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behavior and will deal with it seriously,” and vowed to “intensify” its policing of fan culture to “purify” the online atmosphere.
The suspensions come at a time when Chinese authorities are ramping up rhetoric about the need to clamp down on runaway fan spending and fan club “chaos,” issuing new directives just last week with language echoed in Weibo’s statement.
In response to its punishment and amidst those new requirements, the Jimin fan account that was the first to be disciplined changed its name to signal “a new starting point” and posted the missive: “We call on everyone to be civilized, follow stars rationally… and build a harmonious and healthy online environment. “
Local reports said that the Jimin fan club began raising money in April in anticipation of his birthday, and raised over RMB1 million ($155,000) in the first three minutes of its campaign and RMB2.3 million ($356,000) in the first hour.
The account’s 1.1 million-strong following far outstrips the 290,000 followers of BTS label HYBE’s own official account. One of them lamented: “The era of online fan clubs has come to an end.”