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Chinese tech executive Chen Shaojie, founder and CEO of DouYu, said to be held 'incommunicado' after authorities find porn on popular live-streaming platform

The founder and chief executive of Tencent Holdings-backed DouYu International Holdings, Chen Shaojie, has been held "incommunicado" by Chinese authorities for weeks, according to local media reports, months after online censors allegedly uncovered pornographic content on the popular video game live-streaming platform.

Chen, 39, has vanished from sight for weeks and could neither be contacted nor located by his colleagues, according to a report posted on Monday on Cover News, the digital platform of Chengdu-based West China City Daily.

When someone becomes incommunicado in mainland China, it typically means that the person has either been taken away by authorities for an inquiry or "to assist in an investigation". In Chen's case, no Chinese authority has provided any information about his disappearance.

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In an emailed statement to the Post on Monday, Nasdaq-listed DouYu said its operations remain normal, but did not comment on its missing chief executive. Chen's last public appearance was in August for DouYu's second-quarter results conference call.

Douyu International Holdings founder and chief executive Chen Shaojie, third from left, poses for pictures next to Chinese video-gaming live streamer Liu Mou outside the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York City during the company's initial public offering on July 17, 2019. Photo: Shutterstock alt=Douyu International Holdings founder and chief executive Chen Shaojie, third from left, poses for pictures next to Chinese video-gaming live streamer Liu Mou outside the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York City during the company's initial public offering on July 17, 2019. Photo: Shutterstock>

Chen's unexplained situation is reminiscent of the sudden disappearance of China Renaissance Holdings chairman Bao Fan earlier this year, which grabbed headlines and fanned speculation about the reasons why he went missing.

China Renaissance said Bao was still "cooperating" in an unspecified investigation launched by mainland Chinese authorities, according to a report by the Post in August. Authorities have not provided further details about Bao's situation.

Chen's disappearance comes several months after China's internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), launched a rare on-site inspection of DouYu's local arm in central Hubei province to address "serious" problems related to the platform, including pornography and other vulgar content.

CAC did not release information about the results of the inspection or subsequent action as part of rectification measures.

Publishing pornography online is a criminal offence in mainland China.

Wang Xin, one of the pioneers of China's online video-streaming market, was sentenced to a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence and fined 1 million yuan in 2016 by the Beijing Haidian District People's Court, which found him guilty of "distributing obscene materials for personal gain" as his online business provided easy access to pornography and various pirated content. He was released in 2018.

Launched in 2016, DouYu operates its platform on both personal computers and mobile apps, providing users access to immersive and interactive games - including Tencent's Honour of Kings - and entertainment live streaming, a wide array of video and graphic content, as well as opportunities to participate in community events and discussions.

DouYu raised US$775 million from its initial public offering in New York in July 2019. China's antitrust watchdog blocked the US$5.3 billion merger of DouYu and Huya live-streaming platforms, both backed by Tencent, in July 2021, at the height of Beijing's regulatory crackdown on the country's internet sector.

Shares of Douyu closed at US$0.94 on November 3. In October, DouYu received a written notification from the Nasdaq's Listing Qualifications Department, which indicated that the closing bid price of the company's American depositary shares was below the minimum bid price of US$1 for the past 30 consecutive business days.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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