A "dorky" young Chinese man is suspected of taking large sums of money from his parents to spend on live-streaming websites before disappearing from the family home.
The 24-year-old's disappearance is the latest controversy to hit the burgeoning entertainment sector and emerged just days after a provincial government banned hostesses from wearing skimpy outfits when broadcasting to their fans.
In the latest case, the man surnamed Liu is believed to have taken 1.7 million yuan (S$340,000) from his parents before vanishing from his family home in Changsha, the capital of the central province of Hunan at the end of December, Red Star News reported on Wednesday.
Liu's father said his son had previously racked up a 600,000 yuan bill on one popular platform called YY before disappearing with the larger sum of money.
His parents have been unable to contact him since his disappearance, but his travel, bank and social media records suggest he is now in the southern megacity of Shenzhen.
His family believe the disappearance is related to one live-streaming hostess - something the woman in question denied during a recent broadcast.
"He is a good son. He must have run away because someone was wheedling him," he told the media.
But his cousin surnamed Zhou described Liu as "dorky", adding: "He doesn't hang out and likes to play video games and watch live streams at home. He also tips the female host."
Media reports said he was spending 12,000 yuan a month on a subscription to YY that gave him special viewing privileges before any tips were added in.
Shenzhen police have been informed but are yet to track down Liu.
Watching female video hosts singing, dancing, or even eating online has become a major source of entertainment for single men in China, a country where males hugely outnumbered women by 42 million.
These female performers can earn up to 100,000 yuan a month from the nation's estimated 456 million viewers.
But the rapid growth of the chaotic industry has triggered a string of controversies, ranging from cases of minors stripping online to a performer who was detained for singing the national anthem in a "disrespectful" manner during a musical show.
The authorities have also become increasingly concerned that broadcasters are spreading illegal and obscene content and, as part of a broader crackdown, the authorities in Hebei province this week introduced a set of rules for performers that banned hostesses from wearing revealing outfits.
Cases like Liu's have become common in China. In November a depressed 19-year-old named Lee was reported to have spent his parents' savings of more than US$37,000 on a live-stream hostess.
"It felt great, going onto the website and having people call me 'sir' like I was super rich," the teenager told Thepaper.cn.
Liu's story sparked a debate online, with some social media users blaming live-stream hosts for "going too far just to make money".
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.