Lu Chao - the 24-year old woman who documented her experience with leukaemia on her microblog and triggered a social media campaign - has died on Thursday in Beijing.
A year ago, her posts led to a watershed campaign for online fundraising endorsed by the Big-Vs - prominent weibo users posting under their real names and with a large online following. Her death comes amid a crackdown on such Big-Vs, and shortly after the detention of Charles Xue, the Big-V who initiated the fundraising campaign for her treatment.
Lu, who was known by her internet alias “Lu Ruqing”, died on Thursday afternoon at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in the capital, according to a post on her microblog. Her mother Zhou Yu’e confirmed her daughter’s death on Dazhong, the provincial news portal of Shandong – the province Lu Chao was from.
The post triggered more than 34,000 expressions of sympathy in just half a day.
Lu’s moving posts in which she documented her illness made her an internet celebrity last year.
An ensuing campaign by the China Youth Development Foundation to collect funds for her treatment received a large boost when Charles Xue, a Chinese-American venture capitalist, who has 12 million followers on his Sina Weibo microblog, put his name to it in May last year. Within a week, one million yuan in donations had been collected just by spreading microblog posts.
Xue was detained in mid-August on charges of soliciting prostitutes amid an ongoing effort to rein in public debate on social media. Along with Xue, hundreds of people have been detained throughout the country on charges of “stirring trouble” or “spreading rumours” on the internet.
Xue has since been paraded on national television several times, confessing his own "crimes". “I overlooked the social responsibility of being a Big V, and brought about an undesirable outcome [for society],” Xue said in his latest televised humiliation on Sunday.
The Communist Party’s leading newspaper, the People’s Daily, reported Lu’s death on Thursday. One weibo user commented on the post, saying: “Do you dare to say who helped her?”