The physicist Stephen Hawking has attracted more than 1.5 million followers in his first day on Chinese social media after saying he hopes to tell the country more about his life and work.
On his account on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, Professor Hawking used a bilingual message to say: “Greetings to my friends in China! It has been too long!”.
He last visited China in 2006 to take part in a physics conference in Beijing, according to his first post, and first visited in 1985 to travel across the country by train.
Reporting on his 2006 visit at the time, the Associated Press reported that he had “near-superstar status” in the country, and told an audience of 500: "I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women. They are beautiful."
“When he was wheeled onstage 20 minutes into the event, the audience rushed forward, taking pictures with their mobile phones,” according to reports at the time. “Many stood and craned to see him better throughout the talk and one man in the fifth row watched Hawking through binoculars.”
Judging by the reception Professor Hawking has received today on Weibo, he has not been forgotten by Chinese fans.
One of the top-rated comments urges users to be polite when communicating with Professor Hawking, warning that China’s image could be damaged if replies used crude language, according to a translation by The Wall Street Journal.
Another asked the eminent scientist: “Respected Professor Hawking, a question: I’m 180 centimeters tall and weigh 75 kilograms. When will I find a girlfriend?”
Professor Hawking said in his first post: “I have only been able to touch the surface of your fascinating history and culture. But now I can communicate with you through social media – and I hope to tell you more about my life and work through this page and also to learn from you in reply.”