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Idris Talha Kartav, beloved Turkish celebrity in China, dies in quakes

Idris Talha Kartav, a beloved Turkish celebrity in China, was among those who lost their lives after two major earthquakes jolted southern Türkiye on February 6.

The 31-year-old from Istanbul, known by the name Tang Xiaoqiang in China, was in Türkiye when the earthquakes hit and died after the hotel he was staying at in the southeastern city of Adiyaman collapsed due to the tremblors.

His body was reportedly found in the rubble of the hotel over 85 hours after it collapsed.

Kartav, or Tang, rose to fame in China as a regular guest on Hubei TV’s popular variety show “Informal Talks” where he would often discuss his motherland Türkiye, informing the audience and other guest stars about the country’s culture and history.

Kartav’s fans and close circle mourned his death on Weibo, a prominent Chinese social media platform that resembles Twitter. Informal Talks also posted condolences on its official account.

A ‘hero’ in Xiamen

In an interview with Turkish TV news channel NTV from five years ago, Kartav said it was his dream to live in China, expressing joy and pride for making it in the country.

Kartav dropped out of architecture school in Türkiye in 2010 at the age of 18 and went to China, where he studied at Xiamen University and did his masters in international relations. He also presided over the International Turkish Students’ Association.

“I could have studied business in the United States, the immediate choice that springs to mind. But I thought China would be a better choice for my future and my father fully supported me,” he said in an interview with Beijing Review, China’s national English magazine, which described Kartav as eager to contribute to friendly ties and cooperation between Türkiye and China.

According to the magazine, the “kind-hearted” Kartav made headlines in Xiamen after he helped rescue the severely injured driver and passengers of a minivan following a traffic accident and “became a hero”.

“I saw the accident on my rear-view mirror,” Beijing Review quoted Kartav as saying. “My first reaction was to stop my car, call the police and see if I could help.”

Kartav began appearing on Informal Talks in 2016 as a representative of Türkiye. Fluent in Chinese, he won hearts with his humorous personality and respectful attitude towards the Chinese culture and its people.

Kartav also volunteered for community service during the Covid-19 lockdown in China, and helped many people in Xiamen. “Because of this, many netizens (internet users) affectionately call him ‘Brother Tang’,” the channel cited Hubei TV as reporting.

Over 48,000 dead

At least 42,310 people have died as a result of the devastating twin earthquakes that hit southern Türkiye, also heavily affecting northern Syria, on February 6. Thousands more were injured.

Another 6.4 magnitude earthquake and a magnitude 5.8 aftershock also hit the southern Hatay province earlier this week, leaving the country on edge. An additional six fatalities and 562 injuries were reported from Monday’s earthquake.

In Syria, at least 5,814 people have died according to figures that haven’t been updated for days.

The total death toll from the quakes has surpassed 48,000.

Here is how you can help the earthquake victims.

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