Didi and the founders of Lenovo go private on Chinese social networks and withdraw from the spotlight

A sign of China’s transport service Didi is seen at its headquarters in Beijing, China July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

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HONG KONG, May 5 (Reuters) – Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and her father, the founder of Lenovo (0992.HK), have ended their public presence on China’s leading social media site, the latest Chinese tech leaders stepping out of the spotlight.

Didi’s Jean Liu and her father, Liu Chuanzhi, both activated a feature on China’s Weibo platform to hide all old posts, at some point during the just-ended Labor Day holiday. Neither had posted in the past six months.

Elder Liu, who has 880,000 followers, and his daughter, who has 10 million, gave no reason to go private, but it was noticed by Weibo users who questioned their decision.

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Didi and Lenovo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Several other Chinese tech company founders have also gone private on social media or stopped posting in the past two years, including Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma (9988.HK), ByteDance’s Zhang Yiming and Meituan’s Wang Xing (3690). .HK).

These businessmen, especially Ma, had once been among China’s most outspoken citizens, buoyed by their entrepreneurial success, before a sweeping regulatory crackdown that began in late 2020 brought the China’s once freewheeling internet sector.

Henry Gao, a law professor at Singapore Management University, said the withdrawals from the online public space reflected growing restrictions on what can be said publicly in China and the increasingly difficult environment in which technology companies face.

“The era of high-flying outspoken tech leaders is over,” in China, Gao said.

The situation in China was “completely different from the West, where tech leaders are not only expected to speak up, but also have to take a stand on these difficult political issues, even though some of them might not want to.” “, did he declare. .

Wang de Meituan, a former avid user of the social media site Fanfou which he founded, saw the food delivery giant’s shares plummet last year after posting an old poem that was seen by some as a critic of the government and President Xi Jinping.

Wang has since stopped posting and has also hidden her posts on Weibo from public view.

Jean Liu, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is one of China’s best-known businessmen but has come under fire in recent months over controversies over Didi’s $4.4 billion listing in New York. dollars. The company, sometimes dubbed the Uber of China, has announced that it will exit the US stock exchange. Read more

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Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Robert Birsel

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