Fame and celebrity

Chinese pop idol Lu Han under fire for investing in dating app

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 8:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 10:27pm

Chinese heartthrob Lu Han has come under fire after the Tinder-like dating app he invested in was suspected of exposing minors to sexually explicit content posted by users.

His venture capital fund dismissed the criticism, noting that the platform was purely a social media app targeting youngsters and that it had zero tolerance for pornographic acts, while voicing its ambitions to become China’s version of Snapchat.

The public outcry erupted after it surfaced that the 26-year-old singer and actor had teamed up with agribusiness giant New Hope Group and Crystal Stream Capital, a Beijing venture capital firm, to set up a new fund to back start-ups catering to the “lifestyle needs” of Chinese born in the 1990s and 2000s.

Lu, a former member of the South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, boasts an enormous teenager following and appearances in movies such as blockbuster The Great Wall, and in China’s Lunar New Year Gala – the country’s equivalent to America’s Super Bowl.

But he is facing a reputation crisis after his fund, Qinghan, was slammed by mainland media for pouring money into “Pretending to be Lovers”, a self-labelled dating app targeting the so-called post-90s generation.

The social media platform that boasts 7 million registered users said the number of downloads shot up 70 per cent one day after the news on Lu’s investment.

“You can pick a lover here the way you hail a taxi,” said the platform, which allows users to publish texts, audios and videos on its scores of online forums.

“Some users complained there was a lot of sexting among teens in the app’s chatting rooms, while others saw obscene sexual images on its forums from time to time,” Beijing Times reported.

On China’s Quora-like Q&A site Zhihu, a user with the handle “Milan” said she was surprised to meet primary school pupils in the dating app. “It is by and large a Tinder-like application”.

In response to the backlash, a spokesperson with Qinghan said: “We have been very serious about prohibiting pornographic acts on our platforms, and have adopted various methods to filter and remove the unlawful content.”

She noted that Pretending to be Lovers was not a “sex obsessed app,” but a “social media platform catering to young people”.

“We have made it clear in the app’s use terms and conditions that any sexual content was strictly forbidden,” a statement by Crystal Stream Capital said.

“We want to shape Pretending to be Lovers to be China’s answer to Snapchat,” it added.

New Hope, China’s biggest private agricultural conglomerate, is among the biggest backers of the fund, as is Crystal Stream Capital, which funded the Singaporean car sharing service, ICarsClub, and China’s biggest gay dating app, Blued.

Previously, the country’s highest-flying star couple Angelababy and Huang Xiaoming both established venture capital funds. But arguably leading the pack is billionaire actress Zhao Wei, who pocketed tens of millions of dollars of gains from her HK$3.1 billion purchase of Jack Ma’s film company Alibaba Pictures. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

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While the size of the investment was not disclosed, government filings showed that the registered capital of the entity is about 65 million yuan.

The Beijing native shot to fame for his role in the Chinese reality show, Running Man, in which contestants complete missions at various landmarks. With a whopping 28 million fans on microblogging site Sina Weibo, Lu was also a Guinness World Record holder for the “Most Comments on a Weibo Post”.