In a Facebook note published on Sunday (May 10), a university student, Mr Quah Zheng Jie, wrote that a story was made up about his Covid-19 experience by a reporter from Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao (LHZB/LHWB).
Mr Quah, a student from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), wrote that he documented his Covid-19 journey on Instagram to reassure his parents and friends that he was recovering well.
The student was approached by a reporter from the Chinese media known as “James”, who wanted to use photographs uploaded to his Instagram Stories.
Screenshots of their text messages show that “James” told Mr Quah: “Actually I now works in sph as reporter la. Can I do a small write up about your experience from finding out how you kens the virus till now still in expo been quarentined.”
Mr Quah declined but “James” continued asking for images. Mr Quah then told “James” that he was not willing to consent and that he would block him if he asked again.
In his Facebook note, Mr Quah wrote: “Despite my clear refusal to give consent, ‘James’ went ahead and used my photographs and details of my experience, including my personal information, in a Lianhe Zaobao online article dated 7 May 2020, with the title “阻断措施期间足不出户 南大生不解为何染疫”. In that article, ‘James’ also claimed that he interviewed me. This statement is patently false.”
Although Mr Quah wanted to keep his Covid-19 experience private, a friend’s father was able to identify him from the print version of Lianhe Wanbao. He wrote: “As of 7 May, the article content was published across multiple online platforms under Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao (Facebook and their news site). This highlights how easy it was to identify me. A check with NTU also confirmed that I was the only 25-year-old male NTU student with Covid-19.”
“Going further than rejecting my initial refusal of ‘No’, “James” went to the extent of building up a fictional picture of me. “James” had used content I posted on Instagram Stories as a basis to make up an entire story including personal details on my family, my daily activities prior to the CB period, during the CB period. These were FALSE,” Mr Quah added.
After reaching out to the Chinese paper, Mr Quah said that its response was as follows: “After an internal investigation, they found out that ‘James’ had written the story based on my social media postings, and had made a wrong judgment to mention that I was interviewed although I had refused to.”
Mr Quah also alleged that in the piece the reporter wrote, the only things written by Mr Quah were about how he felt of his stay at the Expo and D’Resort.
“The article mentioned my family, my daily activities prior to being admitted to the hospital, where I lived, whether I went out during the Circuit Breaker period. These are all FALSE information,” he wrote.
“Not only did ‘James’ make up this entire piece of fictional work. It is troubling that he chose to use it as a vehicle to sensationalise the Covid-19 situation with such a headline,” he added.
TISG has reached out to Mr Quah, who declined to comment.
TISG has also reached out to Lianhe Wanbao and Lianhe Zaobao for comment and clarification.
The archived version of the article can be found here.