The Top 10 Fake News Of The Year In China

(TVBS News via Yahoo! News Taiwan)

[translation]  Following the rapid economic development on mainland China, the media landscape has become more competitive.  There are now many instances in which the media created 'fake news' in order to gain attention, especially with respect to entertainment news.  For these types of problems, the Chinese government is devising ways to cope with the worsening problems.

TVBS reporter: 

In my hands, I hold some of the major newspapers of Shanghai.  This is just a small fraction of all newspapers, because Shanghai has truly reached an era of multiplicity and diversity.  But the competition among media has encouraged 'fake news' to appear.  A recent example is about the sudden death of the daughter of a Hong Kong entertainer.  This news stunned everyone and many Hong Kong and Taiwan media quoted the report, but it proved to be a false alarm.

Another pieces of news that was shocking for me happened last year when the mainland Chinese media reported that Ella in the Taiwan group S.H.E. was a tranvestite.  I was shocked when I saw that and I even sent a message back to Taiwan asking for confirmed.  This proved to have been made up by the media.

In order to put a halt to this type of bad practice, many places on mainland China have set up rules that will require the reporters to state their real names in their reporting and thus assume personal responsibility.  The Central Propaganda Department will punish those who write reports based upon hearsays, fabrications, exaggerations and against commonsense.  It is also expected that the rewards offered to citizens for calling in news will be banned, because of the vast number of 'fake news' that have resulted.

In the following, I have translated the top 10 'fake news of the year' from the years 2001 through 2004.  Enjoy yourselves!  Most of these stories are humorous, but it must be recognized that fake news can have deadly consequences sometimes.

2001 (via XinhuaNet)

  1. Shanghai will be building a 300-story skyscraper that can accommodate 100,000 persons.  The item was traced to an article in the London Times on February 25 in which some architects hypothesized about such a possibility.  This was wishful thinking transformed into concrete fact.
  2. The parents of two couples in the same village in Hunan province had arranged the marriages of their children when they were infants, but each child preferred the member of the opposite sex in the other couple.  So for the next thirty years, they pretended to get along with their marriages, but switched beds every night.  Finally, they were discovered and their parents reluctantly agreed to have them re-married according to their wishes.  According to the follow-up, the couples with those names do not exist in the named village; well, actually, the named village didn't exist in that named town.
  3. At the Fourth Chinese Beijing New High Technolgoy Products International Exhibition, the Asian Development Bank's Sustainable Development director said that China has eight of the ten most polluted cities in the world: Guiyang, Chongqing, Taiyuan, Lanzhou, Milan, Liubo, Beijing, Guangzhou, Mexico City and Jinan.  The fact was that the director quoted a 1995 source of unknown origin, which he has since then declined to identify.
  4. In a peasant village in Shanxi province, a couple of grandparents were supposed to be looking after their 1-1/2-year-old grand son while their son and daughter went to work.  On the afternoon of July 5, the grandfather went to work in the fields while the grandmother went out to play mahjong.  The grandson was eaten alive by a pig kept in the household, leaving behind only a pair of tiny legs.  When the grandfather came home and saw what happened, he rushed out and beat his wife to death.  Then he drank rat poison and killed himself.  After this sensational story was published, many other reporters went to the town and was told categorically, "NO SUCH THING!"  The named individuals do not exist; in fact, the named village does not exist within that town.
  5. 48-year-old American surgeon Robert Wilder plans to go to Ulkraine to attempt the first human head transplant after perfecting his technique on monkey heads.  It was pointed out that even if a head is transplanted, the recepient would have no control of the body below the head.  What was the point then?
  6. Oxford University will be awarding a doctorate and the highest academic awards (in money) to a female Chinese student Wu Yang for her accomplishments in  the mathematics and comptuer science examinations.  This is alleged to be the first time in the 800 year history of that university.  Upon verfication, Wu Yang did recieve 60 British pounds of scholarship money; but she would need to complete a dissertation in order to receive a doctorate like everyone else.
  7. A female university student in Hubei sued her father at the People's Court for kissing her.  When she was growing up, her dad always kissed her.  But once she went to university, she resented that and filed to a lawsuit on the grounds that it violated her human rights.  When the researcher tracked down the original writer, he said that he was told the story by a female friend.  When contacted, the female friend said that everything but the kissing was made up.
  8. 28-year-old Singaporean male Eric Lee went to Sydney and had a one-night-stand with a sexy white female in a hotel.  He was slipped a tranquilizer in drink.  When he woke up, he was naked and immersed in a bathtub filled with ice cubes.  He called for emergency help and was told that that his kidneys have been stolen.  This was a variation of the standard urban legend about kidney thieves.  It is medically impossible, since kidney donations usually require extensive testing for compatibility beforehand.
  9. A top university student at a Guangxi university needed to earn tuition money.  So he ended up robbing people and was caught.  Upon investigating, the robber was using the name of his student brother when arrested.  Of course, that would not be as good a story.
  10. According to a New Zealand newspaper, there has been about 100 cases in which Tonga people have attacked and burned down stores operated by Chinese.  More than 600 Chinese shopowners and their families will have to leave Tonga.  The riots occurred because the Chinese controlled the shops and there are many unemployed people in Tonga.  Upon checking, the fact was that foreigners are not allowed to enter into the retail or distribution sectors in Tonga.

2002 (via XinhuaNet)

  1. A female newspaper reporter wrote a report on pollution, and caused a factory owner to pay 10,000 yuan to have her kidnapped and sold.  She was transferred from one person to another, until she was rescued after 61 days.  Upon investigation, the author admitted that it was completely fabricated.
  2. The poet Wang Guozhen was reported to be so impoverished that he had to use his calligraphy skills to write shop signs.  Upon publication, the real Wang Guozhen sued the newspaper for calumny because he was financially secure and was not in the shop-sign business.
  3. A proposal by the Nanjing city political consultative committee members offers to rename the Nanjing Massacre Compatriot Victims Memorial Museum into the Chinese Nanjing International Peace Center on the grounds that it was not just about the massacre only.  Upon verification, the Nanjing city government denied any proposal to do such.
  4. A news report said that microwave ovens are responsbile for many incurable dermal diseases, to the point where many consumers begin to think that microwave ovens are death machines.  The microwave oven manufacturers identified the source of this rumor against an unnamed American transnational corporation.  Hmm ... let us guess ... do they manufacture gas ovens?
  5. An American advertiser claimed that CCTV just called them to tell them that no American advertisements will be allowed, and this decision was allegedly confirmed by a source at CCTV.  There will be a period of grace, but CCTV had decided that no American ads will show up during the World Cup.  When contacted by other reporters, the CCTV advertising department said, "What is so bad about foreigners advertising in China?  Since China has joined the WTO, we will have to go along with the rules.  This is against the law, so how can we be doing that?"
  6. It was reported on Ecuadorean television that the Ecuadorean referee for the Italy-South Korean game at the World Cup had just been shot to death in Quito.  The report even included a photo of the dead referee.  Shortly afterwards, this referee was interviewed in the United States, where he was vacationing with his family.
  7. The earth is reported to have only 50 years of life left, so we better start moving people onto other planets immediately.  The World Wildlife Fund was quoted as the source.  When contacted, the WWF has no idea what this was about.  This example should have aroused suspicions before going into print, since it is very much against commonsense.
  8. For the CCTV song contest, Song Zuying will be stripped of her status as a judge, and she promises to reveal the dark secrets of CCTV in retaliation.  Upon receiving a visit by Song's manager and lawyer, the newspaper issued an apology that the entire story had been fabricated.
  9. Actress Liu Xiaoqing was detained while under investigation for financial fraud, and a reporter allegedly went undercover to find out about her treatment.  According to the reporter, she had a single room with air-conditioning, bathroom and shower, and the detention center provided her with Sichuan-style meals.  The Beijing Public Security Bureau held a press conference to state that Liu Xiaoqing was treated the same as any other detainee.
  10. A three-thousand-year-old Egyptian mummy was found to be pregnant.  Furthermore, the pregnancy had occurred recently and the fetus is eight-month-old.  The father was found to be the guard at the research institute, who said that he could not resist the beauty of the mummy and had sex with her."  The source was an American supermarket tabloid known more for practical jokes, but it was reported without qualification at

2003 (via XinhuaNet)

  1. On March 28, CNN reported that Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was assassinated while appearing at a charity function in Los Angeles.  Very quickly,, and other Chinese web sites carried the report and sent out SMS messages.  Later, it was found that the report appeared on a 'fake' CNN web site which the media worker believed to be the real thing.
  2. A film script titled <<9/11 Life, Death and Marriage>> by an unknown female Chinese writer living in Canada has been purchased by 20th Century Fox Studio for 1.02 million American dollars and will be turned into a movie directed by James Cameron, who directed Titanic.  The fact is that this was one of thousands of movie scripts that had been submitted to any number of movie studios, and no deal has ever been made.  This was a pure publicity stunt.
  3. On May 11, a 1.18 meter tall man appeared with his 1.60 meter tall wife on Chongqing television.  What is the deal here?  All the media coverage emphasized that the man was a millionaire.  This is not necessarily 'fake news', but it should not be any big deal, one way or the other.
  4. In the wee hours of the morning, more than three hundred people fought in the streets of Zhengzhou with steel pipes and staffs.  The crowd ignored the orders of the police until the police were forced to fire eight times into the air to get their attention and stop.  The story was propagated through all the media and the provincial government ordered a thorough investigation which found -- seven or eight people were fighting; no shots were fired; and all participants were arrested.  The reporter was not on the scene, but listened in on the police radio and decided there must have been many more people out there.
  5. When Austrian Werner Schlager became world table tennis champion, the reporters found a Chinese female by his side.  She was a professional table tennis player Tien Huan from Shenyang married to the world champion.  Unfortunately, the real Tien Huan surfaced and said that she was coaching in Croatia during the World Championships and could not have been interviewed.
  6. A single mother who could not even afford to ride in a bus came across a briefcase containing more than 1 million American dollars.  This woman stood on the road for two full days and then met the foreign investor who came looking for his briefcase.  The woman declined any kind of reward.  Upon investigation, this was totally fabricated.  What kind of foreign investor would show up with 1 million US dollars in cash (unless he was a drug dealer)? 
  7. According the results of an audit of Shanghai land deals, only 57 lots out of 479 lots went through a public bidding.  In other words, 84% of real estate deals were illegal transactions based upon under-the-table payoffs.  The source of the information was quoted as the Central Auditing Group.  Unfortunately, the group had issued no such information.
  8. The essay The Back Shadow by writer Zhu Ziqing was originally selected into a literature textbook, but the students objected because "the father ignored traffic rules and crossed railroad tracks at will" and "the image of the father was fuzzy."  So the essay was deleted from the textbook as a result.  After many reader protests, the newspaper had to retract the story because the essay is in the textbook and the students do not have the final decision on what stays or goes.
  9. In Haikou's People's Park, a scientist was attacked by five robbers and died.  It was said that he was a famous scientist who participated in the work on the atomic and nuclear bombs, as well as the Shenzhou V manned space flight.  The police clarified that the scientist was not a member of the Chinese Academy of Science nor did he participate in any of the named projects.  He was a scientist caught in an ordinary crime, and that was that.
  10. This last story was about the trade mark rights and exclusive rights for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The Beijing Olympics Committee had to step in to hold a press conference about the China logo rights have not been signed away.

2004 (via People's Daily

  1. According to an in-depth investigation, a reporter learned that the State Council has declared Chinese soccer as "an undesirable asset" as well as an "undesirable market" and ordered all state-owned companies to stay away.  The State Council had to issued a notice to state that no such order exists.
  2. At age 41, movie star Jet Li has reportedly returned to Qinghai province to become a buddhist monk.  Although Jet Li made 140 million yuan last year, he has decided to give up that career to study buddhism.  His decision reportedly had the support of his understanding wife.  When Jet Li was reached, he smiled and said, "Do you really believe that kind of news?  And if you won't, how can I?"
  3. According to the coach of weightlifter Zhang Guozheng, he obtained a credit card with a credit limit of 40,000 yuan and waved it in front of Zhang and told him that if he could lift the weight, then 500,000 yuan will be his.  This certainly worked for Zhang.  But the national weightlifting coach said, "I worked with Zhang and the coaches, and we talked about tactics and we studied his opponents.  Nobody ever talked about money or credit cards."
  4. It was reported that the second-generation of national identity cards that will be tested in six cities will be manufactured by a Japanese company.  Will a foreign country control the processing fo all the basic information about the Chinese citizens?  According to the public security bureau, all such identity cards will be made in China.  The reporter said that he got the information from Yahoo! News.  How about verifying the information on the Internet as well, eh?
  5. In the early morning of August 29 near the end of the Olympic gold medal game for women's volleyball, reported that "Our Chinese girls lost to the Russians in a hard-fought battle and our twenty-year quest for Olympic gold has failed."  Later, apologized to its readers for the mistake, explaining that they had prepared stories for either outcome and in the rush they had published the wrong version.
  6. The reporter found out that Monica Lewinsky would be coming to Chengdu to promote her book about her love life with Bill Clinton, who will be in Chengdu at the same time promoting his own book.  Will they meet again in Chengdu?  The publishers of both denied any concrete plans to appear in Chengdu.  Yeah, why in the world would Monica Lewinsky and/or Bill Clinton be promoting their books in that city?
  7. The Confucian Temple will reportedly return to the practice of listing the names of the top scholars (according to exam results) in the province.  The contract has reportedly been signed between the university and the temple.  Upon checking, the source of the information came from a compilation of investment possibilities and it was certainly far and removed away from a done deal.
  8. The report says that the average life of the media worker is 45.7 years, which is a lot lower than the national average life.  The truth of the matter was that the average age of media workers who died on the job was 45.7 years.  Now that would make a vast difference.
  9. A news report said that a certain brand of flour in Huangzhe town was contaminated and may cause serious kidney and liver damage.  After a test condcuted by a laboratory, the brand was pronounced clean.  What happened here?  Who submitted the original sample?  Was it authentic or faked?  Who did the testing?  Who announced the test results to the public?  Had those questions been considered, this case would not made it into the newspapers.
  10. In Chengdu, several men were seen smashing the windows of a white BMW 760 sedan.  Supposedly a child created a scratch on this car, and the owner demanded compensation.  The father said, "Your BMW 760 cost about 1.6 million.  Let me say 1.8 million including tax.  Right?  I'll buy it for 1.8 million.  So this car is mine now."  Then he ordered his companions to smash the car.  This is the same old story that has been repeated so many times on the bulletin board systems.  Usually, they use the same "what" and "why" but they will change the "where" and "when."

2005 is only half over, but I can quickly offer five strong candidates just from my blog posts:

  1. A Female Public Security Officer in China  The dead model people's heroine police director Ren Zhangxia was sentenced to 15 years in jail for corruption.  Hmmm ... actually, some other female public security officer was tried, found guilty and sentenced but Ren's photo was mistakenly used instead.  You know ... all female public security officers look alike anyway ...
  2. The Chizhou Incident  A 15-year-old secondary student who had just completed his final exam bumped into a Toyota sedan in Chizhou.  The irate car owner ordered his security guards to beat the little boy to death, saying "Killing an Anhui person is only going to cost 300,000 yuan in compensation!"  This led to a mass riot that caused four vehicles (including the Toyota and three police cars) to be torched, a police station trashed and a supermarket (in which the car owner was an investor) looted.
  3. Q&A about Huaxi/Huankantou  This mass riot was triggered when citizens attempted to block access to several polluting chemical factories and the police came in the middle of the night to remove the obstacles.  According to eyewitnesses, two elderly persons were killed when police vehicles ran over them; other injured civilians who did not die on the scene were hauled off to the crematorium and incinerated alive.  The resulting mass riot caused 33 injuries to the police.  Hmm ... strange that no one can name any of the dead.
  4. The Case of the Missing Fingers  Nanfang Daily news reporter Wen Chong was assaulted by several men in his home and had two figures chopped off.  They did it because of the report that he wrote about the Sun Yee On triad organized crime group.  Hmm ... actually, his jilted ex-lover ordered the hit.
  5. What If It Were False?  A set of bedtime exercise photos of Shenzhen senior official Li Yizhen with a certain television program hostess shows what it takes to get a promotion in that town.  Hmm ... actually, this one may even be true because you can't make heads or tails from those photos.