Smartisan-backed messaging service Liaotianbao, an updated version of the once-popular Bullet Messenger, has fallen victim to a major software bug, erroneously awarding users millions of RMB in virtual coins.

On Tuesday, users began posting on social media about how they were able to collect large amounts of virtual coins, which can be exchanged for cash, in an in-app game dubbed “Money Tree.” The first report came from a user on microblogging platform Weibo, saying they were awarded more than 1.6 billion coins—worth nearly RMB 1 million (around $150,000)—after playing the game once.

The user urged Kuairu Technologies, Liantianbao’s developer, as well as its struggling backer Luo Yonghao, founder of smartphone maker Smartisan, to “cope with the setbacks and bring better products to users.”

Liaotianbao responded (in Chinese) later that day, saying the gaming feature “Money Tree” had been temporarily removed and that it would recover all the virtual funds that had been given out in error. It updated the app on Wednesday and relaunched the feature after resolving the issue.

Kuairu Technology attempted to reinvent its Bullet Messenger app by launching Liaotianbao, roughly meaning a good tool for chatting in Beijing on Jan.15. The app was immediately blocked by Tencent’s super messaging app WeChat alongside Bytedance’s video-based messaging app Duoshan.

Though this incident was a software bug, Chinese internet companies have recently been plagued by cybersecurity issues including data breaches and hacking attacks. They have also been criticized by users and authorities for over-collection of data. JD Finance apologized last week for saving screenshots of other apps on its users’ smartphones without authorization.

E-commerce giant Pinduoduo earlier this year was attacked by hackers, who allegedly stole online discount vouchers worth millions. The company involved the police and vowed to recover all the money that had been spent by its users. The case is currently under investigation by Shanghai police.

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Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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