Charles Xue, a Chinese American billionaire investor and prominent opinion leader residing in Beijing, was again featured in state-controlled Chinese Central Television (CCTV) reflecting on his attitude as an influential celebrity. It came two weeks after the public humiliation of his arrest and detention under the charge of solicitation of prostitution, also aired by CCTV news. His self-criticism of being an irresponsible opinion leader in the public reminded people of the “class struggle session” during the Cultural Revolution and some even said Xue was forced to prostitute himself on TV.
The latest 30 mins TV feature, however, has nothing to do with his immoral act of prostitution, but a self-criticism of his attitude as a big V, meaning verified celebrity in Sina Weibo. By the end of the feature, he expressed his support for the recent judicial guidelines that define online rumor, saying that it will restore order in the online world.
Interviewed by the police officer inside the detention center, Charles Xue talked about his path of becoming a Big V in Sina Weibo in the first part of the feature. He joined Weibo in 2010 and became popular in May 2011 after he launched a snapshot campaign to help parents to find their kidnapped kids who sometimes ended up begging in the streets. Later he was diagnosed with cancer and started blogging about his treatment. By then he had more than a million followers. As an online celebrity and successful businessman, he attended many career talks, being interviewed by magazines and newspapers. His followers reached 5 millions in 2012 and he developed a habit of commenting on news and helping others to distribute their content. In 2013, he wrote in average 80 micro-blogs per day and had more than 12 million followers, a size equal to 3% of the 400 millions total internet population in China.
The CCTV host then commented that the Weibo communication mode has made Charles Xue egoistic because he was surrounded by so many friends.
Charles Xue then admitted that he could not possibly verify every piece of information he re-tweeted and that he was often emotional, not constructive and irresponsible. He said he felt himself like an emperor, “more powerful than a CCP secretary of a local government” as the number of fans he got is more than a major city. As a “star”, he was very high and lost himself.
In the final part of the interview, he resonated the CCP rumor crackdown campaign and said the biggest problem in the Chinese internet is rumor and it will generate disorder in the society. He thus supported the judicial guidelines which define defamatory and ungrounded contents that have more than 5000 views or have been retweeted 500 times as rumors. He stressed that Big V should have greater social responsibility and respect the law.
The TV feature reminded many of the “class struggle session” during the Cultural Revolution. The public performance of “struggle session” was to “help” the self-criticized person to correct their counter-revolutionary and reactionary thinking. As Chinese micro-blogging is now heavily censored, many have moved to Twitter to comment on the political performance of Charles Xue.
@Dennis_Chang believed that Charles Xue must have suffered a lot during detention:
— Dennis_Chang (@Dennis_Chang) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue, a Big V with 12 million fans. He was so cooperative in CCAV [Chinese Central Adult TV, a spoof name for CCTV]. Obviously the police must have made him suffer to the extent that he would say whatever he was told to say. Next time he would say Long Live Chairman Mao.
@Business_trader said this time Xue has been forced into prostitution:
— Business_trader (@Business_trader) September 16, 2013
Upon listened to previous interview and then watched Charles Xue's confession, now I got it. Man can be forced into prostitution.
— 吴乐宝 (@MerlotN) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue forgot to pay the prostitute in the lane [he was caught on spot], this time the Party-state also does not pay Xue for prostituting himself.
In reply to @aiww's rather harsh comment, @aac_ feels sympathetic towards Xue:
薛蛮子在高压恐吓下被迫屈服，可以理解吧，毕竟不是主动作恶。RT @Waynexg “@aiww: 看了薛蛮子在央视的网络自白，这人还真的是欠镇压，一群流氓暴捶了一个嫖客的快感油然而生。”他一定是 #劉無敵 的崇拜者。
— 赖永献 (@aac_) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue was forced to be submissive under high pressure. We should be more understanding, it is not an intended evil act. RT @Waynexg “@aiww: upon watching Charles Xue's self-criticism, this guy deserved repression. The gang's pleasure comes from beating up the prostitutor…
Indeed, many are disappointed with Charles Xue. For example, @lihuaixio4427 said:
— 张琦@zhangqi (@lihuaixio4427) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue has been ruined by CCP. He should not have submitted. Although any resistance will result in harsh punishment, as a Big V he should know that an intellectual should rather be killed than humiliated. After all everyone will die eventually. Now I feel pity for him that he has lost all his virtue.
@liurui007521 said the TV feature has turned Xue to an eunuch
— 独孤锐-独立维权记者 (@liurui007521) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue's talk about his path to Big V is so disgusting. Another castrated eunuch has joined the world. The relation between repression and submission is mutual. A few years ago, Ai Weiwei was not be accused of prostitution and put on show. He was fined 15 millions. Charles Xue will soon return to the joyful world.
However, @tufuwugan believed that the CCP will continue to exploit him:
— 超级低俗屠夫 (@tufuwugan) September 15, 2013
Charles Xue does not have enough knowledge about what kind of scumbags he is dealing with. He thought he would be free if he is cooperative in the performance. But the Gang will be addicted to the means and will not easily give up. They will continue to exploit him. When poor Charles Xue came out, he lost his name. People felt sympathetic for him earlier on, once you humiliate yourself, you lose everything.
Can CCP achieved their goal? @duyanpili used the husband and wife relationship to explain why CCP is doomed to fail:
— 艳萍 (@duyanpili) September 15, 2013
The CCP wants to control public opinion and cannot allow people like Charles Xue to take the lead. However, to humiliate Charles Xu in public is like a wife beating up the husband's mistress in the street. However, the wife cannot get back the husband's heart by doing this, it is all too late.
@duyanpili's prediction is probably right as indicated by comments from Sina Weibo. Mo Ju (@墨鉅) believed the authorities have humiliated themselves in such political performance:
Is this a prostitution case or a Big V case? Charles Xue was arrested for solicitation of a prostitute, or it is speech prosecution after all? The heart of Sima Zhao [an ambitious ancient politician] is known by everyone layman. But Sima Zhao could not spell it out by himself. Everyone knows that your objective is to repress free speech and they are about to achieve it. You cannot state your intention publicly, which means, in order to shut him up, you attack his penis [through the charge of solicitation]. You are shameless, but what about the Party and the government? Don't they want to keep their faces looking good?
@wybfz (@网眼八分斋) urged the authorities be merciful to Charles Xue:
[Please be merciful to Charles Xue] A 60-year-old fellow, talking like this, he have completed his mission and become a scapegoat for the ritual. Even if I am his opponent and enemy [in public debate], I cannot watch this anymore: In a civilized society, it should be civilized even to the criminals. To behead a person in the internet and have the body hanging up in the air for so many days to let the online world bear witness to the consequences, this is pure regression. I will continue criticizing him, but I urge you to treat him with mercy. What about you?