Celebrity microbloggers of China's Weibo

Celebrity microbloggers of China's Weibo
Mr Charles Xue, a so-called Big V, was arrested last month in what was seen as a political move.

BEIJING - A recent anti-prostitution sting operation in Beijing led to 27 arrests, but only one man was singled out and he grabbed headlines not just in China but globally too.

The reason, many believe, is Chinese-American investor Charles Xue's status as a "Big V", an informal term for China's celebrity microbloggers, who command a huge influence through the Twitter-like Weibo portals.

The arrest last month of Mr Xue, who has 12 million fans following his Sina Weibo tweets daily, is viewed widely as politically motivated and part of the Communist Party's ongoing crackdown on vocal netizens.

Mr Xue and other Internet celebrities - such as novelist Murong Xuecun, whose Weibo accounts were shut after he reportedly ran foul of the authorities with his politically sensitive postings - have cast the spotlight on the Big Vs.

The name, which stands for verified microblog accounts with large fan bases, came about after Sina Corp launched its Weibo portal in August 2009. It soon began attaching a V sign next to names of users whose identities have been ascertained to be bona fide.

By end-2011, there were some 300,000 "verified" users on Sina Weibo, which now has over 500 million users, of whom more than 54 million are active.

Not all are individual bloggers as many Weibo accounts are also run by organisations such as government agencies, schools, companies and foreign embassies.

The more popular Big Vs are usually individuals who attract huge followings through their status, personalities and willingness to express views or discuss issues hardly seen in media controlled by the Communist Party.

Sina Weibo, the largest of several microblog operators in China, is said to have "several thousand" users, each with at least one million fans, the commonly accepted yardstick to be considered a Big V. There are some 210 Big Vs, who each have at least 10 million fans, on Sina and Tencent Weibo.

Actor Chen Kun tops the Big V charts with 56 million fans, followed by actress Ruby Lin, with 52 million. Other popular Big Vs are former Google China boss Lee Kai-fu (51.4 million) and tennis star Li Na (21.7 million).

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