Twitter China head Kathy Chen leaves company

* Chen says Twitter’s Hong Kong office will remain open

* Twitter to manage mainland China sales out of APAC HQ

(Updates with comment from Twitter, adds context)

NEW YORK/BEIJING, Jan 3 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc
executive Kathy Chen, brought in to run Greater China just over
eight months ago, has quit, according to a tweet sent by her
over the weekend.

Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009 but is still
used through virtual private networks (VPN).

Domestically, the Sina Weibo microblogging platform and
Tencent’s WeChat messaging app are more widely used.
But Chinese entities, including the state news agency Xinhua,
use Twitter to reach audiences abroad.

Chen, who previously worked at Microsoft and Cisco
, was brought in to lure more Chinese advertisers to
Twitter. At the time, social media criticism focused on her
early work with Chinese state-affiliated
enterprises.

“Now that the Twitter APAC team is working directly with
Chinese advertisers, this is the right time for me to leave the
company,” she wrote.

Twitter grew its Greater China advertiser base nearly 400
percent over the past two years, she wrote, making it one of the
firm’s fastest growing revenue markets in Asia Pacific (APAC).

Twitter’s top Chinese advertisers have included Chinese
smartphone maker Xiaomi, online shopping giant Alibaba Group
, white goods producer Qingdao Haier and
flag carrier Air China.

“We remain committed to this market,” Chen said, adding the
company’s Hong Kong office would remain open.

Twitter confirmed it would retain the Hong Kong office to
serve Hong Kong-based clients, but declined to provide further
details on Chen’s departure.

QUESTIONING THE VALUE

The end of Chen’s relationship with Twitter comes at a time
when China is urging for greater internet curbs.

The country has condemned foreign social media as a hotbed
for fake news and cyberterrorism, sending ominous signals to
Western firms that are eyeing a piece of the Chinese market,
home to the world’s largest population of internet users.

“When China’s economy was really on fire it created enough
smoke to obscure the realities of what foreign tech companies
were really going to be permitted to do here,” says Mark Natkin,
managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

” you are getting more companies who are beginning to
question the value of the investments they are making here.”

The popular but money-losing microblogging service Twitter
has moved its Chinese ad sales and support activities to its
APAC headquarters in Singapore.

Twitter has been undergoing a significant shakeup, and not
only in Asia, announcing in October that it would cut more than
nine percent of its global workforce to keep costs down.

Parminder Singh, managing director for India, Southeast Asia
and the Middle East, left the company in early November.

(Reporting by David Randall, additional reporting by Donny Kwok
and Cate Cadell; Editing by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Himani
Sarkar)

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