In a tragic turn of events, Chinese influencer Sanqiange, known for participating in daring livestream challenges, died recently, sparking renewed debates on social media regulation in China. His untimely demise came just hours after he livestreamed drinking several bottles of strong Chinese alcohol, Baijiu, on Douyin, China's version of TikTok.
The Fatal Livestream
On May 16, Sanqiange was part of a competitive event known as a "PK" challenge, wherein influencers engage in virtual face-offs to win gifts and prizes from viewers. Often, these challenges come with punishing penalties for the losers.
This specific challenge saw Sanqiange and another influencer drink bottle after bottle of Baijiu - a potent Chinese spirit with an alcohol content ranging from 30 to 60 percent. “I don’t know how much he had consumed before I tuned in.
But in the latter part of the video, I saw him finish three bottles before starting on a fourth,” an unidentified friend, referred to as Zhao, revealed to Shangyou News. He added, "The PK games ended at around 1 a.m. and by 1 p.m., (when his family found him) he was gone”.
An Influencer's Risky Legacy and Impending Regulation
Sanqiange's content frequently saw him participating in similar alcohol-involving challenges. His latest venture, which culminated in tragedy, quickly spread across Chinese social media.
However, it was soon removed in the aftermath of his death. The incident is likely to intensify the debate on social media regulation among Chinese authorities. Even prior to Sanqiange's death, the National Video and Television Administration, in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, had already begun steps to ban “31 misbehaviors by livestreamers”.
According to the Global Times, a state-run media outlet, these proposed restrictions are aimed at preventing influencers from “encouraging users to interact in vulgar ways or inciting fans to attack with rumors”.
Sanqiange's untimely death serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers of unregulated online challenges and the pervasive impact of influencer culture. It has highlighted the pressing need for social media platforms to exercise due diligence in enforcing community guidelines, prioritizing user safety above all else. This tragedy may ultimately serve as a catalyst for change within China's evolving digital landscape.