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“Youth With You 3” Abruptly Ordered to Stop Production Days Before Grand Finale

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One of China’s biggest pop idol producing TV shows has been told to halt all recording just days before the finale of its third season. Streaming platform iQIYI issued a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning saying that Youth With You 3 had suspended production in the run-up to this weekend’s final episode following an intervention by the Beijing Municipal Radio and Television Bureau.

The statement, issued at 1:39 AM local time via the show’s official account on social media platform Weibo, said “We will strictly implement the relevant management regulations […], suspend the program recording immediately, earnestly fulfill the main responsibility of the platform, actively assume the social responsibility of the media, further improve the program management system, seriously check and rectify the existing problems, and strive to properly control every element of the program production more carefully, as well as actively creating a clean and healthy network environment.”

The statement ended with a simple apology: “We are sorry for the problems.”

Shortly after iQIYI’s statement, the management for contestant Tony Yu announced that he had left the show for “personal reasons.” The young performer has been battling allegations over his citizenship as well as attempting to refute rumors that his parents previously operated a karaoke business that was a front for illegal activity, including prostitution.

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While Youth With You’s specific troubles inevitably attracted a flurry of online commentary, the main trending hashtag on Weibo associated with the news appeared to frame the incident as part of a broader issue. “How do you view the repeated problems of idol shows?” had attracted over 19 million views by mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

That “repeated problems” mention is likely a reference to criticism faced by Youth With You’s rival idol show Produce Camp, which ran a controversial promotion where fans could gain extra votes for their favorite contestant if they bought a certain brand of yoghurtYouth With You 3 had a similar deal with milk brand Mengniu, which some media outlets have suggested is the reason for its suspension. Reports of thousands of bottles of milk being bought up and then discarded by individual fans and fan groups have not gone down well — especially in light of China’s current crackdown on food waste.

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Many commenters on social media appeared supportive of the authorities’ move to intervene in the iQIYI show, though a number of the most upvoted comments on Weibo wondered why the entire season had to be suspended if Yu was the reason for the stoppage, instead of simply kicking him out. A poll on Sina’s tech account asking whether people accepted iQIYI’s apology saw around 80% of the 100,000 respondents saying they did not.

What this now means for the future of the show — and for the many others like it — currently remains unclear.

Cover image: Tony Yu on Youth With You (iQIYI)

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.