Fans' fundraising platform halts transactions; 30+ fan clubs complain of freezing of tens of millions of yuan
Published: Oct 17, 2021 07:44 PM
Hundreds of fans gather outside a hotel where Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu was staying in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, in 2017. Photo: VCG

Hundreds of fans gather outside a hotel where Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu was staying in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, in 2017. Photo: VCG


One of the most popular platforms for Chinese fans to support their "idols" by raising funds and getting information on the entertainment industry has announced that it's suspending all trading services, which means that supporting entertainers by financial channels is not allowed on the platform, and the sudden notice has enraged dozens of fan clubs, including South Korean boy band EXO's and K-pop idol Lisa's fan clubs.

The platform Owhat said on Sina Weibo on Thursday that it will suspend all trading services including selling products about stars and it will also stop services for withdrawing deposits. Fans who have purchased products can apply for refunds.

The notice enraged many fan clubs, and more than 30 fan clubs have published statements on social media to protest the action, as they might be unable to get their profits back and have lost tens of millions of yuan, the Red Star News reported.

Some fan clubs said that they had cooperated with Owhat to make rectifications such as applying for business certificates after Chinese authorities began to rectify the "fan circle" chaos in August, but the platform has not given them their profits and they had to pay themselves for factories that made products. 

Since it was launched in 2014, Owhat, a product of the age of the fandom economy, has been an important place to raise money for fan clubs. 

Some entertainers' fan clubs bought advertising boards at subway stations to celebrate their idols' birthdays or purchased the naming rights of asteroids. A large amount of money was collected from millions of fans, and platforms such as Owhat were their bases.

The Red Star News said that to collect enough funds to support entertainers, fan clubs usually launched some products such as albums and photobooks of their idols and encouraged fans to purchase these products on Owhat. 

These products' prices were usually higher than similar items sold on traditional e-commerce platforms so as to raise more funds, and fans were clear about that, the report said.

A fan of Chinese actor and singer Wang Yibo, 26, told the Global Times on Sunday that she bought her idol's posters that had been made by fan clubs on the platform, under the influence of her love of the entertainer at that time.

The resulting profits were turned into supporting materials such as snacks, drinks and flowers that were sent to the star when Wang appeared on TV programs or acted in TV and film works, she added.

Such fundraising reminds many of pyramid selling, and in many cases the spending is not transparent, observers noted.

In August, the Cyberspace Administration of China published a notice on its website asking provincial offices to rectify the fan circle chaos. The administration specified 10 measures, including cancelling all ranking of entertainers, barring forums that picked fights and led to chaos, and requesting agencies to better guide fan groups.  

The idol market in China will reportedly be worth about 140 billion yuan ($21.6 billion) in 2022. Given this booming market, the rectification campaign came just in time to create a clear environment for fans to rationally chase stars, officials and experts noted.