Apr 14, 2016

    Hawking is on Sina Weibo - with over 2 million followers


    WORLD renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has amassed more than two million followers - and counting - on China's microblog network Sina Weibo after starting an account on Tuesday.

    The British academic zipped past Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who has about 820,000 followers after a year on the social media site, known as the mainland's version of Twitter.

    Dr Hawking's first post, in which he referred to his last visit to China almost a decade ago for a physics conference, said: "Greetings to my friends in China! It has been too long!"

    The post, which was published in both English and Chinese, garnered more than 500,000 likes and was reposted more than 260,000 times.

    More than 230 million people use Weibo every month.

    A growing number of international figures have joined the site in the past few years to connect to a Chinese audience.

    They include Microsoft's Bill Gates and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

    Dr Hawking's science book, A Brief History Of Time, made him a household name in China when it was introduced in the country in the late 1980s.

    The 74-year-old received a warm welcome from fellow Weibo users, some of whom described interacting with him online as making contact with the universe.

    "Great scientist, welcome to Weibo," former Google China chief Lee Kaifu wrote in a comment.

    Meanwhile, some urged fellow netizens to behave themselves around the professor.

    One such comment read: "I hope there won't be any idiots who ask the professor brainless questions, please do not take him as a joke and do not shame us Chinese people."

    Weibo told Xinhua news agency that Dr Hawking's team contacted it earlier this year to verify his application.

    The account's introduction says it is run by Dr Hawking's team and United States social media company Stradella Road.