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Stalking, illegal tracking, assault: is China’s fan culture off the rails?

People & CultureChina Personalities

ExplainerWhy is China’s celebrity-obsessed fan culture so out-of-control?

China’s government is taking drastic measures to rein in the country’s obsessive fan culture, announcing a 10-point plan last week that builds on recent actionsAcademic studies describe the shift from standard fandom to intense-personal celebrity worship as borderline pathological behaviourChina societyRobert Burton-BradleyPublished: 2:30pm, 31 Aug, 2021Why you can trust SCMP

In 2017 a quiet and unassuming 18-year-old girl named Gong Yuwen found herself caught at the centre of a major story about Chinese fandom and star-chasing.

The teenager had left school and did not work, giving her endless hours to lurk around Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport; there she would lie in wait for celebrities in the hope of getting a photo, sometimes chasing them through the terminals. What was most unusual about Gong was that, unlike most hardcore fans, she did not focus on one or even a few celebrities, instead called herself an “all-loving fan” — she was after any star that she could get access to.

After Chinese singer Yuan Chengji mistook her for a regular fan and shared a photo of himself with Gong, hundreds of social media comments followed pointing out that Gong was a superfan stalker and shared hundreds of photos of her posing for selfies with stars, chasing them through the airport and pushing her way through crowds to try and get close to her idols.

The media dubbed her the “Hongqiao Diva” and soon reporters were digging through her personal life; reporting on her poor academic performance, her unemployment, and that she lived with her grandparents who supported her financially. She was held up as an example of everything wrong with China’s rising celebrity fan culture. Gong said she found the loss of privacy and unwanted attention extremely stressful, but seemingly missed the irony that after years of hounding celebrities through Shanghai airport she was now the one being stalked.

Crossing the line

In the years since the story of the Hongqiao Diva captured the public’s attention, the country’s fan culture has exploded as Chinese cinema and television shows have become more popular, and the people involved more famous.

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