Social media

Xi's top fan calls it quits on blog site after coming clean

Online author Zhang Hongming says posts will stop, but supporters suggest move was forced

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2013, 11:15am

Two days after admitting he was the author of a mysterious microblog about Communist Party chief Xi Jinping's activities, Zhang Hongming sent a message hinting he would stop making posts to the blog, "Fan Club of Learning From Xi".

Zhang, who has more than 800,000 followers, wrote: "Goodbye. I was happy when I came here, but I'm leaving today with deep feelings … Thanks to all the fans [of Xi], perhaps there is no room for us due to limited public understanding, or perhaps there is no room for us in the real world.

"I feel remorse and regret for disturbing them due to the existence of the Fan Club of Learning From Xi." He did not explain who he meant by "them".

Zhang did not respond to requests yesterday for an interview.

The announcement surprised many users of the Sina Weibo microblogging service, with many urging him not to quit and saying he was doing "just doing great". Others were left speculating about the reasons behind his sudden decision to quit.

In an interview with Associated Press on Saturday, Zhang, who described himself as a technical college dropout and migrant worker now living in Wuxi , Jiangsu , said the microblog, which he started on November 21, was all his own work.

He said he was just a genuine fan of China's president-in-waiting and intent on making him more accessible to the public.

Many internet users doubted his explanation because the microblog tracked Xi's recent trips to Guangdong and Gansu even faster than coverage from state media, causing some to wonder if the microblog was an inside job by Xi's team.

Some said Zhang might have landed himself in trouble because of the interview with a foreign news agency, while others singled out a posting on Friday in which he suggested local cadres in Gansu posed as vegetable vendors during a visit by Xi.

One popular internet commentator wrote: "Obviously he was not silenced, but rather was advised to quit. Perhaps only he himself knows where the pressure came from."

Culture critic Zhu Qi saw it differently. "The microblog was a rather worrisome phenomenon, for it represents a new model of worship for individual leaders making use of the internet."