Lee Kai-Fu, Google Inc. (GOOG)’s former China head, said on his microblog he has cancer, sparking widespread concern among his more than 51 million followers.
“Although lymphoma doesn’t sound optimistic and has made my family and friends concerned, this is life -- it comes as a surprise but I should face it calmly,” Lee, 51, said on his Sina Corp. (SINA) Weibo account at about 8:07 a.m. Beijing time today. “Sickness is part of life; I will choose to face the ups and downs of life with a more positive attitude.”
The news sparked more than 70,000 comments, mostly well wishes, within less than two hours after the posting. Lee, chairman and founder of venture capital fund Innovation Works, is known in China as a leader in supporting technology innovation and for offering advice to young people on the Twitter-like Weibo service.
Lee also told employees in a letter that he has lymphoma and is receiving treatment, Wang Zhaohui, a company spokesman, said by phone today.
Lee was president of Google’s Greater China operations from 2005 to 2009. During his time at the operator of the world’s biggest search engine, he expanded its workforce in China to 700 people and doubled Google’s market share in the country, according to Innovation Works’ website.
The executive is at the heart of an industry that is both promoted and tightly controlled by the Chinese government. China, home to more than 591 million Web users, censors the Internet through measures including blocking access to websites with pornography, gambling and content critical of the ruling Communist Party.
His prominence on Weibo has drawn scrutiny from China’s censors. He was banned from posting for three days in February, after speaking out on topics ranging from Beijing’s air pollution to censorship.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at email@example.com