Social Information News

Twitter China Chief Kathy Chen Departs

Twitter plans to keep open its Hong Kong office

BEIJING— Twitter Inc.’s controversial China chief has departed after only eight months, the latest executive to leave amid a global reorganization.

A stream of executives has left the company since it announced layoffs in October amid continued losses. Profitability has long been a challenge for the popular social network and its revenue growth has slowed.

In a series of tweets on Dec. 31, Twitter’s Managing Director for China, Kathy Chen, announced her departure but said Twitter would keep open its Hong Kong office.

“Now that Twitter’s APAC [Asia Pacific] team is working directly with Chinese advertisers, this is the right time for me to leave the company,” Ms. Chen wrote in a tweet.

Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009, but Ms. Chen was hired to help it cultivate more Chinese advertising clients. Her appointment sparked controversy due to her previous employment links to China’s military. Critics on social media said her tweets appeared to reflect lack of familiarity with Twitter and a willingness to cooperate with China’s state-controlled media.

There weren’t signs of a broader shift in Twitter’s China strategy or renewed efforts to bring its social network back to the country. Ms. Chen wrote that Twitter remains committed to the China market and its focus there remained serving Chinese advertisers who wanted to reach international markets.

Twitter’s advertiser base in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan has grown 400% in the past two years, she wrote in a tweet.

A spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company confirmed Ms. Chen’s departure Monday.

Twitter said in October it would slash 9% of its workforce, or around 350 positions, largely in sales, partnerships and marketing organization. It said it would focus on profitability, after reporting a quarterly loss of $100 million.

Several other Twitter executives in Asia have left in recent months, including Parminder Singh, head of India, Southeast Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

Ms. Chen, a former executive of Microsoft and Cisco, had raised eyebrows due to her former work for China government-related entities. Early in her career, she was as an engineer for a research institute attached to the Chinese army’s Second Artillery Corps. She also served for five years as CEO of an antivirus company backed by an arm of China’s Ministry of Public Security.

Ms. Chen joined Twitter the same day her appointment was formally announced and one of her first tweets drew criticism for its offer to work with state media to promote China.

In a reply to tweets by Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey and state broadcaster China Central Television, she wrote they could join forces to “tell great China story to the world.”

In her tweets this past weekend, Ms. Chen said that she would take some time off to recharge, study international cultures and pursue other international business opportunities.

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