Liu Wen: China supermodel's new year message sparks row

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Liu Wen walks the runway during the 2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show In ShanghaiImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Liu was the first Chinese model to walk the catwalk at the Victoria's Secret fashion show

Chinese model Liu Wen has sparked a backlash after sending a new year's message to fans on Instagram.

Liu used the phrase "Happy Lunar New Year", rather than "Chinese New Year", prompting some Chinese social media users to accuse her of neglecting her heritage.

The supermodel has since changed her message to "Happy Chinese New Year".

Lunar New Year, which began this year on 16 February, is celebrated by hundreds of millions around the world.

The phrase "Lunar New Year" is often used instead of "Chinese New Year" because the festival, which is determined by the lunar calendar, is celebrated in China but also in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Liu, who features in Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid models, had posted a photo of herself celebrating the new year with businesswoman Wendi Deng in front of a festive Kumquat tree.

Happy Chinese New Year!!! 🎉🎉@wendimurdoch

A post shared by Liu Wen (刘雯) (@liuwenlw) on

However, her account was bombarded with thousands of messages from nationalistic social media users who accused her of pandering to other Asian countries.

"If even Chinese people don't respect their own culture, how can you expect others to respect you?" Instagram user baijingting999 wrote.

Another user accused Vietnam of appropriating Chinese New Year, and said "you called it Chinese New Year last year, but Lunar New Year this year - disgusting!"

A third wrote: "If you want to become Vietnamese so badly, get out and don't come back to China."

Others though came to her defence, and argued that both phrases were valid.

One told Liu: "Happy new year! The people who have a problem with the word 'Lunar' need to go back to school to study English."

User szml wrote: "Both greetings are ok. You shouldn't change it just because of some online bullying. This would enhance those who try to push their way by online bullying."

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Instagram is blocked in China, but many users have found ways of bypassing this, and Liu's post was also reposted on Chinese social media.

China is one of the world's largest consumer markets, and its social media users have become increasingly influential in recent years.

Earlier this month, car maker Daimler apologised after its subsidiary, Mercedes Benz, quoted the Dalai Lama in an Instagram post - incurring the wrath of many Chinese people online.

And in 2016, French cosmetics giant Lancome cancelled a promotional concert in Hong Kong after mainland Chinese internet users criticised a singer set to perform there, and threatened to boycott the brand.