China's most popular e-commerce influencer Austin Li Jiaqi was a no-show at a scheduled live streaming sales session on Sunday, after his program on Friday was abruptly cut off.
Li, who has more than 64 million followers on Taobao Live, the live-streaming platform for merchants on Taobao Marketplace, was scheduled to go live on Sunday evening with deals on travel packages and sun protection products, according to program previews published on Saturday and Friday, but Li did not show up.
Li's absence from a scheduled live stream followed an incident on Friday when his live streaming feed abruptly stopped just after 9pm, the prime time for live streaming sales on the Chinese mainland, leaving millions of viewers confused about what happened.
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Li then explained on Weibo that his live stream had to end because of a technical error in the equipment.
On Sunday, Li's public account on WeChat did not publish a daily preview of the day's upcoming live streaming promotions, and his Weibo account did not have any update since his posts on Friday night. Li's channel on Taobao Live, operated by Post owner Alibaba Group Holding, and his Weibo accounts remain available for the public to see.
Li's marketing agency MeiOne did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Popular celebrity influencer Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was once the country's most bankable live-streaming e-commerce star, but she disappeared overnight after authorities in the eastern city of Hangzhou slapped her with a record 1.34 billion yuan (US$201 million) fine for tax evasion last December.
Two other top influencers on Alibaba's platforms, Zhu Chenhui, known as Xueli Cherie, and Lin Shanshan, were also fined for tax evasion and removed from China's online space last year.
Known as China's "Lipstick King", Li once sold 15,000 tubes of lipstick in just five minutes on Taobao's live-streaming platform.
Li is also recognised as a major asset for Alibaba after he sold US$1.9 billion worth of goods on the first day of presales leading up to Singles' Day last November. His shows have become key to attracting more online shoppers from Taobao competitors such as ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese version of hit short video platform TikTok.
Missed appearances will put pressure on Li, who has to make up for lost sales during the midyear 618 online retail festival, which is the country's second-biggest shopping extravaganza after Singles' Day.
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 © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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