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WeChat Users Send 46 Billion Digital Red Packets for Lunar New Year

Users of WeChat sent around 46 billion electronic red packets — digital versions of traditional envelopes stuffed with cash — via the Chinese mobile social platform over the Lunar New Year period, the official Xinhua new agency reported Saturday.

China has a long tradition of giving red packets during the Lunar New Year, which fell on January 28 this year.

Internet giants such as Alibaba Group Holding have promoted the use of virtual red packets, also known as “hongbaos,” to grow business in the country’s booming mobile payment market.

The number of digital red packets sent via WeChat, owned by Alibaba rival Tencent Holdings Ltd, rose 43 percent in the January 27 to February 1 period compared with a year earlier, according to Xinhua.

People in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei led the red packets mania, while South Koreans were WeChat’s most active hongbao senders outside the Chinese mainland, Xinhua said.

Since its launch in 2011, WeChat has become China’s most popular mobile social media platform. Besides sending text, audio and video message for free, users can also use the WeChat digital wallet to pay utility bills, make donations and buy plane tickets.