A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture.
Twenty-two fan accounts have been suspended by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo for what it called “irrational star-chasing behaviour”.
They include fans of Korean pop band BTS who crowdfunded on the platform to customise an aeroplane for singer Park Ji-Min’s 26th birthday.
Weibo accused one fan account of “illegal fundraising” for the stunt.
In a statement, the company said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behaviour and will deal with it seriously”.
It also pledged to “purify” online discussions and “regulate community order” on its platform
The BTS account was suspended from posting for 60 days. Other accounts supporting K-pop acts Blackpink, GOT7 and EXO – who have Chinese members – were given 30-day bans.
The move comes amid a wider clampdown on the entertainment industry in China, and fan culture in particular.
Last week, two government agencies published guidelines saying they would ban broadcasts by “vulgar internet celebrities” and “feminine-looking men” because they do not portray the values the country wants to promote.
In June, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) also announced 10 measures to “clean up” what it called the “chaos” of celebrity fan clubs.
It said it would prohibit activities that persuade children to contribute money to their idols, and disband social media groups that are deemed a “bad influence”. Attempts to rank celebrities based on popularity will also be banned.
Earlier this year Beijing was increasingly concerned that “fan clubs can mobilise, either in person or online, to stage protests for their favourite stars”.
K-pop fans are known for their ability to organise impressive stunts – frequently raising thousands of dollars to promote their idols on billboards in New York’s Times Square, for example.
But they have also turned to political activism, using the sheer weight of their numbers to overload social media hashtags used by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, and disrupting one of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies by reserving tickets they had no intention of using.