Planet China

Saying sorry

Editors at China’s state media rarely apologise for their mistakes. For example, late last year the People’s Daily blooped by taking seriously claims in satirical magazine The Onion that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “the world’s sexiest man”. After it realised it was a joke, the newspaper removed the article from its website. But its editors didn’t say sorry for confusing their readers.

So it was a pretty big deal, reports Want China Times, that the Global Times felt the need to apologise to an actress (and a Japanese one at that) for running an inaccurate story last week. The inflammatory article accused Aoi Sola of “lacking ethics” after a photo went viral in which she was pictured holding up a sign reading: “Principal, leave the children alone and let me know if you want to go to a love hotel.”

The problem? The sign had been photoshopped by Chinese netizens. When this became apparent, the Global Times editor Hu Xijin took to his weibo to recant: “Such a mistake should not have been made. Everyone is right in their criticism (towards the newspaper).” Hu added that the Global Times would be contacting Aoi’s agent to apologise and planned to write a follow-up article explaining its mistake.

Hu was responding to a storm of vitriol on the internet – and criticism from other newspapers – over the failure to fact-check the story. Aoi is actually very famous in China – especially among men, WiC assumes – thanks to an extraordinarily prolific career in ‘adult’ movies. But there is a more serious side to this story too. The spoof photo was created to draw attention to an earlier pose by Ye Haiyan, an activist. Ye also held up a sign offering her own body for carnal enjoyment as a means to shame Chinese teachers who molest their pupils. As we discussed in WiC196, a spate of such incidents have been reported over the past fortnight.

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