Last week, the Chinese Communist Party announced a sweeping clampdown on the behaviors and political opinions of artists. Weibo, one of China’s most popular social-media platforms, has reportedly taken the crackdown a step further by banning all manner of K-pop accounts – including a two-month suspension for one profile established and operated by fans of BTS member Jimin.
In unveiling their evidently far-reaching crackdown on artists and other media figures, CCP officials specifically took aim at “incorrect political opinions” and “effeminate” behavior – albeit without disclosing the nuances of the policy. Worth noting on this front is that Apple Music made tracks from Zara Larsson unavailable to users in China last year, after the singer criticized the 1.4 billion-resident nation’s government, while February of 2021 saw the CCP ban Clubhouse due to the on-platform presence of uncensored conversations.
Most recently, however, the Chinese government’s crusade against free speech has compelled it to target social-media users and fan accounts as opposed to prominent figures and applications themselves.
As mentioned, Weibo (NASDAQ: WB) higher-ups have complied with the government order by issuing a 60-day suspension to a fan account, Jimin Bar, run by BTS ARMY diehards (and particularly supporters of Jimin, as the group’s name suggests).
25-year-old Jimin – who is nearly two years older than Jungkook, the seven-piece act’s youngest member – is set to celebrate his 26th birthday on Wednesday, October 13th. And to commemorate the occasion, Jimin Bar collaborated with South Korean budget airline Jeju Air to decorate a plane with Jimin’s picture, according to AllKPop and images of the eye-catching aircraft, which will display the colorful design through November’s end.
What many K-pop enthusiasts applauded as a worthwhile tribute to Jimin hit the wrong note with the CCP, though, for Weibo promptly deleted the fan-account posts involving the airplane and put the corresponding profile on ice for two months. In a statement, the social-media app’s team emphasized: “Once an act of supporting a celebrity is determined to be irrational, we will deal with it seriously.”
“Since [the] Cyberspace Administration of China announced ‘Additional Measures To Clean Up Fandom Chaos,’ Weibo has been doing related clean-up as requested, posting several announcements to advocate supporting celebrities within reason and to maintain order within this community,” continues Weibo’s statement, according to AllKPop.
“Netizens reported to us that, in April, an account started a crowdfunding event for a ‘customized airplane’ on other platforms, which violated the rules. Recently, they posted the results of the event on Weibo. The contents of the post included elements of inducing and comparing, which is a serious issue. We immediately banned the account JIMIN_JMC (also known as Jimin Bar) from posting for 60 days and deleted the related Weibo posts,” proceeds the all-encompassing message.
“Weibo is strictly against the irrational support of celebrities, and is ready to take serious actions,” the text concludes. “Going forward, we will continue to make periodic announcements on actions taken. We all need to work hard together in order to clean up the fandoms; our users are welcomed to give us tips and feedback on this matter.”
The New York Times has reported that Weibo likewise penalized “21 other K-pop fan accounts,” including those that support Blackpink and EXO, for similar violations and with a comparatively lax one-month suspension. The dedication of K-pop followers – and especially BTS ARMY members – is without question, and consequently, it’ll be interesting to monitor the impact of this and other actions against fan initiatives moving forward.