BEIJING Jan 17 The ascendancy of mobile
messaging in China slashed the number of microblog users by 9
percent last year, a government report showed, triggering the
steepest decline in the share price of top microblog operator
Sina Corp in three months.
Blockbuster mobile messaging apps such as Tencent Holdings
Ltd's WeChat have become venues of choice for users
who want to express views without fear of retribution. The
government last year started clamping down on "online rumours"
which it says threaten social stability.
The government threatened legal action against people whose
perceived rumours on microblogs such as Sina Weibo are reposted
more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people. The
crackdown is seen as a crude tool to halt criticism of the
ruling Communist Party.
The number of microblog users fell to 280.8 million from
308.6 million a year earlier, according to the official China
Internet Network Information Center report released on Thursday.
The decline could be felt by microblog operators such as
Sina, Tencent and Sohu.com Inc who could lose
advertisers or may be forced to lower prices.
Shares of Sina had fallen 4.75 percent by the close of trade
in New York on Thursday, their biggest decline in three months.
The government's campaign against online rumours, which
critics say is crushing free speech, has particularly singled
out Sina Weibo as a conduit.
It has signalled that it plans to increase its control of
social media, including WeChat, and further "manage" the
The Information Center's report is not representative of
Sina Weibo, and looked at the market as a whole, said Sina
spokesman Liu Qi. Sina was not aware of how the Center collected
its data as it had not contacted the company, Lui said.
Sina Weibo had 60.2 million daily active users as of
September, according to the company, rising 11.2 percent from
Tencent was not available for immediate comment. Sohu
declined to comment.
Tencent, China's biggest listed Internet company with a
market value of $123 billion, operates microblog Tencent Weibo.
It also operates WeChat, which had 272 million active users as
at September-end, according to the company.
Its shares were up 2.93 percent as of Friday afternoon in
China had 618 million Internet users as at the end of last
year, according to the report, 81 percent of whom use mobile