Breaking with a long-standing Chinese New Year tradition, Tencent CEO and co-founder Pony Ma (Huateng) didn't hand out red packets to staff at the Shenzhen-based technology conglomerate.
Tencent cancelled its traditional red packet (hongbao) handout to employees on the first working day after the Spring Festival – which this year fell on 1 February – a statement released on the company’s social media account on Tuesday revealed.
The statement did not provide a specific reason for the cancellation, but reminded employees to stay healthy during the Lunar New Year holiday, although speculation suggests that it was due to the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus – which continues to spread across cities in China, with cases also reported in at least four other countries.
“It’s a little bit frustrating not to meet Ma this year,” one anonymous Tencent employee told the SCMP.
“Tencent can send out red packets to us via WeChat, but it is not the same as the tradition we’ve been used to,” they added.
Ma – also Tencent’s chairman – has said previously that handing out red packets to employees for the best part of two decades gave him the opportunity to personally offer good wishes to each employee.
The tradition continued even after WeChat’s Red Packet feature was launched in 2014 as a means to send money electronically during the Lunar New Year. Last year, the queue for red packets weaved around Tencent’s headquarters in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, all the way up to the 48th floor of the building, where senior management greeted employees.
Tencent’s social media platform – WeChat – is one of the world’s biggest messaging apps.