Recently, many top live streaming personalities have left the stage one after another. Analysts believe that some of them left the spotlight because they might have touched the political taboo subject of the Chinese government. Beijing fears their influence so they suppress them. 

Live streaming stars vanish one after another

With the leading global role in the livestreaming ecommerce industry, China has a whopping 480 billion dollars market in 2022, according to research market company eMarketer, although founded for just a meager 3 years.       

With a booming industry bringing about many new top live streamers, many could rake in millions of dollars in sales through just one single livestream event. But China, after all, is a market of restrictions. These live streaming stars, once top players in the industry, are struggling to survive.

Two well-known players in this field are ‘Queen of live streaming’ Viya and “Lipstick King” Li Jiaqi.

 ‘Queen of live streaming’, caught for tax evasion and alleged close contact with Alibaba

Viya is known as the “queen of livestreaming” for her ability to sell any product or service. She once sold a rocket launch service for 6 million dollars in 2020, and sold over 1.3 billion dollars of inventory on Singles’ Day in 2021.

At the end of last year, Viya was accused of tax evasion by hiding personal income and fictitious business to switch the nature of her income. The authority fined her 210 million dollars for this.

Many other livestream stars were also wiped out after tax evasion such as Xu Guohao, Ping Rong, Zhu Chenhui , Lin Shanshan, among others. 

One notable point. Viya’s successful live streaming career was set up in Taobao – a brand of e-commerce giant Alibaba. Viya was charged with tax evasion coinciding with the time China allegedly scrutinized Alibaba billionaire founder Jack Ma and blocked the listing of his fintech giant Ant Group.

Li Yuanhua is a former professor at Beijing Capital Normal University. He told Chinese language media Da Ji Yuan that Viya has a direct relationship with Jack Ma. So the official suppression of her is no different than hitting Jack Ma himself, which is entirely a result of political power struggle. These people are linked to its political enemies, which worries Beijing the most.

He said the government wants to get the money from them or suppress them. There are both political and economic reasons behind this.

He added:

“What the CCP is doing is killing monkeys to scare the chickens. No matter how big you do it, you are under my control, including how it used tax evasion to rectify those people. Did he not evade tax before? Then at that time, what did the tax department do? “

 This happened before. For example, by the end of last year, tax agencies of 9 provinces and 1 city, including Beijing issued tax payment notices to star artists and network anchors. Many analysts believe that this is because Beijing lacks money and is using this trick to extort their money to help resolve its financial need.

Veteran media specialist Shi Shan told Chinese language media Da Ji Yuan  that recently the Chinese government adopted the method of slapping fines at every chance possible, reflecting its extremely difficult economic situation. The economic downturn in China and the decline in government revenue have affected many levels. And local governments need money to run many of their activities. 

Shi Shan believes that in the future, as China’s economy continues to decline,    

After Viya drifted away from the spotlight, another famous streamer by the name of Li Jiaqi, known in English as Austin Li, took to the stage. But it did not take long before he followed the footsteps of his predecessor with his perhaps unintended misstep with the heavily censored Tiananmen massacre event. 

Li Jiaqi banned for mentioning the June 4 incident

Li Jiaqi is China’s top live-streaming male anchor. He once hit the record for selling 15,000 lipsticks in just 5 minutes through the Taobao Live platform, earning him the nickname “Lipstick King.”

On the night eve of June 4, in a live sale event, Li Jiaqi showed his tens of thousands of fans a plate of Viennetta ice cream from the British brand Wall’s.

The layered ice cream, adorned with Oreo cookies on its sides and what appeared to be a chocolate ball and a chocolate stick on top, had the shape of a tank. This was an extremely sensitive icon to be shown in public just hours before midnight June 4.

2022 marks the 33rd anniversary of the “June 4” Tiananmen Square massacre. On that night 33 years ago, Chinese leaders sent in tanks and heavily armed troops to clear Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, shooting students, and even crushing them with tanks. The students were going there to protest, to demand democracy and greater freedoms for their country. 

Upon showing the tank-shaped ice cream, the live broadcast was suddenly cut off air. Li later went online to his social account to apologize, citing technical failure.  

Beijing has been trying its best all these years to wipe this memory off Chinese history, and Li might not know that he crossed the red line that night.

 Since then, Li Jiaqi has not had another scheduled live event.

 Internet celebrities suppressed because of political issues

Dong Guangping is a second-generation reds from a military family. The term “second-generation reds,” or hong er’dai , refers to the sons and daughters of Chinese political elites who were born in the 1960s and early 1970s. He told Chinese language media Da Ji Yuan that these internet celebrities were suppressed because of political issues. 

He explained that these live streamers are big influencers. They have a vast audience base. As they make any statement on the platform, it will soon spread across the whole country. Therefore, the Chinese government is scared of the propaganda power of this live streaming platform. Just need to be slightly involved in politics, then it is absolutely not allowed to exist. In fact, China’s internet regulator strictly monitors these platforms and all social media and apps.

Dong Guangping noted that as long as they show their opinions on Beijing’s policies and some politically sensitive topics, they will be banned outright. 

He said CCP is an extremely selfish self-interest group, and it has a fundamental conflict with those rich people. Because after these rich people make money from their own talent, they would somehow threaten the bread and butter of Beijing’s interest group. This is a fundamental conflict. After these people have money, they could become dissatisfied with the government. They might scold the government, and the government in turn will crack down on them. This is the nature of the CCP.

He cited Jack Ma, a rich elite who has made many comments showing discontent with Beijing’s policies and ideology. Jack Ma forms his own opinion. So Beijing wants to suppress him and others like him. It would rob these rich people of their wealth, stealing their money in a disguised way.

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