President and CTO of Internet Data Analysis Company iResearch “Disappear” for Investigation

The disappearance of high-level officers at China’s leading research, statistics, and consulting group iResearch is causing a stir on Chinese social media. iResearch president Henry Yang (Yang Weiqing) and CTO Jason Hao (Hao Xincheng) have been incommunicado, WeChat subscription account Damo Finance (大摩财经) focusing on financial news reported on September 19.

iResearch specializes in statistics about China’s online businesses as well as consumer insights. During the same day, the company published an official response to the suspicion and panic raised over the disappearance. The announcement stated that “some managing officers” are “assisting investigation performed by some relevant departments” and therefore cannot be contacted. iResearch also said that the company is operating well and will cooperate with the relevant departments for the investigation.

According to people familiar with the issue, the iResearch case is not likely to be a sensitive one.

“Big outlets including Tencent, NetEase, even high-end magazine China Entrepreneur reported the disappearance. On Weibo (China’s Twitter), you can still find news and comments (including suspicious and offensive ones), while the company definitely has channels to delete posts and related government bodies could have blocked the information,” a source specialized in managing social media comments for companies told TechNode.

Considering iResearch’s influential position in market consulting industry research, and advertising, a possible reason behind the “disappearance” is recent concerns about fabricating market data, especially in TV ratings.

On September 15, movie and TV drama director Guo Jingyu published a long article (in Chinese) to express his anger after a TV station requested him to pay RMB 900,000 (about $130,800 ) per episode to boost his TV show’s ratings. Guo said that he would have to pay RMB 72 million (about $10.4 million) for its new 80-episode drama “Mother’s Life.” Saying no would result in negative comments and low viewers’ ratings on Douban, a Chinese platform similar to Rotten Tomato, said Guo.

The country’s culture and entertainment industry watchdog, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), responded on September 16 in a short one-sentence notice (in Chinese) that the Administration will launch national investigations regarding the issue. The National Bureau of Statistics announced its own investigation during the same day.

While iResearch’s business is not directly connected to TV shows ratings, it is possible the company has ties or insider information about the issue.

By the publication of the article, iResearch has released no updates about the situation. Its official site shows no content or links related to the issue. Damo Finance said neither WeChat or phone call can reach Yang. No information has been released by their families or friends.

– This article originally appears on TechNode.