Thurman Maoyibei
The 29-year-old online influencer later admitted that her story about the lost study books was fake and apologised for her actions. Weibo

Famous Chinese influencer Xu Jiayi (also known as Thurman Maoyibei) had her social media accounts taken down after she fabricated a story about a Chinese boy forgetting his school books in a Paris restaurant.

In February 2024, the 29-year-old was at a cafe in Paris for the Lunar New Year when she alleges a server approached her regarding two Chinese schoolbooks left in the toilets. Xu posted about it across her social media channels, with an accumulative following of 30 million fans.

She claimed the books belonged to a Grade 1 student named Qin Lang from Xichang Primary School and that she was determined to return the books to him.

Xu's post on China's version of TikTok, Douyin, went viral, and garnered over five million likes. Users were determined and invested in helping the young schoolboy get his books back.

Hashtags labelled "Grade 1 Class 8 Qin Lang" and "Primary school kid lost homework in Paris" began to trend on Douyin and Weibo.

The story even attracted the interest of China's state-affiliated media outlets, prompting them to conduct their own investigations; it was then revealed that there was no "Qin Lang" studying at Xichang Primary School.

In an attempt to end all the speculations, Xu posted another lie claiming that she had been in touch with the boy's mom and successfully returned the two workbooks. Plot twist: the boy actually exists and he successfully got rid of his school books #china #chinese #chinatiktok #chinesetiktok #chineseculture #douyin #influencer #chinadrama #chinesenewyear #thurman猫一杯 #maoyibei #fyp #chinesemedia ♬ Cats sped up - Silver ᕦ( ᐛ )ᕤ

However, it was too little, too late, as the police got involved after several netizens launched complaints. Authorities scoured travel records looking for anyone who went by the description of Qin Lang, who made the trip from China to Paris, but found no matches. They then confronted the influencer, who admitted that everything was made up.

They found that Xu and an accomplice purchased the schoolbooks as part of an elaborate hoax, desperate for more views and clicks.

Apart from having her social media accounts suspended, Xu and her accomplice will face administrative penalties. She was also forced to make a public apology.

In the video made last month, Xu stated that she created the false story because of her "light legal consciousness" and recognised that her behaviour "disrupted the internet order and resulted in massive negative influence."

She also said: "I should clearly know my social responsibilities and should not create some content just to grab attention. I call on my colleagues to learn from my lesson and never fabricate or spread false content."

Xu's punishment comes as China aims to end online rumours spread across the internet. The country's Ministry of Public Security confirmed more than 1500 people have been arrested, and around 10,700 have received administrative punishment since last December for spreading fake information online.