Parents of Chinese star Qiao Renliang, who took his own life, abused for not looking 'sad enough'

The parents of a Shanghai singer-actor who suffered from depression and died by suicide in 2016 face bullying and abuse after posting cooking videos online.
PHOTO: Handout

The parents of a Shanghai-based singer and actor who took his own life five years ago have been attacked on the internet for not looking sad in videos they released on social media, with some people mocking their physical appearance.

Qiao Renliang’s death on Sept 16, 2016, was a major story in China at the time as few Chinese stars have taken their own lives at the peak of their career.

His agent said before he died, Qiao, 29, had been suffering from serious depression which was alleged to be caused by untrue media reports and online abuse, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

Qiao was the only child of his parents.

Two years ago, the couple started uploading short videos on the platform Douyin, known as TikTok outside mainland China, most of which were about cooking.

Like many other vloggers, Qiao’s mother Gao Caiping and his father Qiao Kangqiang often used a hilarious and exaggerated manner when performing in their videos.

Qiao Renlian with his mother. PHOTO: Handout

They seldom talked about their son except on important days such as the Tomb Sweeping Day or the date their son made his debut in the entertainment industry.

The couple said they were surprised when their account was flooded by abusive comments because of their videos.

“I think they don’t feel grief at all. Instead, they are using their son’s fame to make money,” wrote one user on Douyin.

“You are not missing your son. You look so happy every day,” another person commented.

“This aunt’s face has scared me. She is like a witch,” a third user’s comment, which got a response from an internet user “therefore she lost her son.”

In a video posted last week, the couple said they were not affected by the “vicious” comments.

Qiao, who suffered from depression, died by suicide in 2016. PHOTO: Handout

“We are indifferent towards it. We also hope the public will not attack each other or fight on the internet,” said the older Qiao to their 7.5 million fans on Douyin.

He said they experienced agony over the loss of their son, but that did not mean their lives were over.

In 2019, they opened the Douyin account to share their story with their son’s fans who were concerned about them and to promote a skincare brand established by the junior Qiao, although they have posted little content about the brand in the past year.

“Our son’s soul in heaven hopes we live well. So I think we can share the happy side of our life to our fans,” said Qiao. “We hope we can be a role model to encourage families whose only child has passed away or whose children have got depression.”

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He said his distorted jaw is the result of a medical accident while his wife has a long face because she has a brain pituitary tumour.

“I don’t mind. You can call me Grandpa Qiao with Distorted Jaw,” Qiao said.

“Some internet users said I am like a character in the series One Piece. I searched on the internet and found there is such a resemblance,” Gao joked in the video.

This video has become one of the most searched topics on social media, with many people saying that: “Qiao Renliang’s parents are too kind”.

The couple’s experience resembles that of Lin Shengbin, whose wife and three children were killed in a fire in their flat in Hangzhou four years ago.

At the time he received overwhelming sympathy. However when he announced in June this year that he had a new wife and baby the internet turned on him.

Lin then faced online scorn and abuse. Some people speculated he was behind the arson scam, forcing police to publicly quash the rumour.

SINGAPORE HELPLINES

  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.