Outpouring of grief after former Chinese television host Li Yong dies at 50

  • Fans leave condolence messages after wife of popular CCTV personality announces his death on social media
  • Li became a familiar face on game show Lucky 52 and hosted the Spring Festival Gala 10 times
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 11:02pm

Condolence messages have been flooding Chinese social media for popular former state television host Li Yong, who has died at the age of 50 after a 17-month battle with cancer.

Li’s wife, television director Ha Wen, announced on Monday morning that Li died on Thursday in the United States from an undisclosed type of cancer, saying “I have lost my eternal love”.

Ha’s post on microblogging site Weibo had been viewed more than 760 million times and received more than 240,000 comments in just five hours on Monday.

A well-known television presenter, Li was known for his sense of humour and down-to-earth style. For two decades, he hosted a variety of arts programmes on China Central Television as well as the Spring Festival Gala that is broadcast annually for the Lunar New Year and gets as many as 800 million viewers across the country.

Fans expressed their shock and sorrow online. “It’s so sudden – I had no idea that he was even ill,” one person wrote on Weibo.

Another wrote: “I can’t believe it because it seems like he has been on our television screens the whole time.”

CCTV host Yang Fan wrote on his Weibo account that the news was “extremely painful” and Li’s death was “devastating”. “Losing Brother Yong means China’s arts programmes have lost a guiding light. Losing Brother Yong means the Chinese audience has lost so much happiness,” he said.

Li was born in the city of Urumqi, in the far western Xinjiang region, in 1968. After graduating from the Communication University of China in 1991, he landed a job as a journalist at CCTV, later becoming a producer. By the late 1990s, he had become a familiar face on the national broadcaster as the host of game show Lucky 52. He went on to host the Spring Festival Gala 10 times before he left CCTV in 2013.

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After meeting his wife at university, the pair worked together at the television station, with Ha the producer on some of Li’s programmes and executive director of several Spring Festival Gala shows.

But since they moved to the United States with their 16-year-old daughter, Li had stayed out of the public spotlight.

Guo Ke, a documentary maker based in Beijing, said he was deeply saddened by Li’s death. He said he met the CCTV star when Guo was an 18-year-old starting out with a small acting role in a television drama. Li had been invited to host an event for the TV series in Leshan, Sichuan.

“Li was already a big star at that time, but he made such a good impression on me – he wasn’t at all arrogant,” Guo said, adding that he had seen Li trying to help a nervous young host.

“She was only 20, and she told me she had felt very supported and encouraged by him,” he said. “Today she thanked Li for that support on social media.”

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