Tencent Video sorry for message that typhoon nearly wiped out Shandong

Screengrab of the push notification sent to subscribers on Monday stating that nearly everyone in the region had died, and seven people were missing.
PHOTO: Weibo/新浪天津

Tencent Video has apologised for sending a message saying Typhoon Lekima had nearly wiped out the entire population of Shandong province in eastern China.

The push notification sent to subscribers on Monday quoted the provincial emergency management department as saying that nearly everyone in the region had died, and seven people were missing.

It was followed by another message that put the death toll at five.

Later in the day, the Chinese video-streaming website owned by Tencent posted a statement on social media network Weibo saying the error was the result of "editorial mistakes" and apologising for any harm caused. It said it would carry out a strict review of its work practices.

Shandong is one of China's most populous provinces, with 99 million residents at the 2016 census.

Lekima, the fifth-worst typhoon to hit the country in 70 years, battered Shandong and other parts of eastern China over the weekend. The typhoon claimed 49 lives after it made landfall at Wenling in Zhejiang on Saturday morning and then moved north across Shanghai, Jiangsu and Shandong.

With more than 900 million mobile monthly active users and 89 million subscribers as of March, Tencent Video is China's biggest video-streaming platform.

A screenshot said to be of an internal company discussion circulating on Weibo suggested that all members of the team handling the push notification service had been fired, but Tencent denied the claim, the Sina News website reported.

Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many people who received the message on Monday took screenshots and posted them on social media, where there was a mixed reaction - some made light of it, while others said the editorial team had neglected their duty.

"I've been asked by a number of friends whether I am still alive," one person, who appeared to be a Shandong resident, wrote on Weibo.

Another said it was not a big deal and people should move on. "The editor did something wrong in this incident, but is it really so bad that a Cultural Revolution-style criticism is needed?"

But for others, it was "not a small issue". "It's really horrible to declare the death of a whole province," one person said. "Those from Shandong who live in other places would've been quite worried about their families when they saw the message."

The article was first published in South China Morning Post.