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Dutch China Correspondent Accused of “Fake News” by Former Assistant

The news assistant of a prominent Dutch China correspondent has lashed out against his former employer on Chinese social media, saying he has fabricated news stories about China during the time he worked for him.



The news assistant of a prominent Dutch China correspondent has lashed out against his former employer on Chinese social media, saying he fabricated news stories about China during the time he worked for him. As the controversial story has since been shared by Chinese state media outlet Global Times, Beijing’s BTime website now says that “time is up” for the Dutch “story king.”

On September 4th, Zhang Chaoqun (张超群), the former assistant of China correspondent Oscar Garschagen, published an article on Chinese social media platform WeChat in which he accuses the Dutchman of fabricating news.

Garschagen is a well-respected Dutch journalist who has been working as a China reporter for Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad (NRC) for ten years. He previously also worked as a correspondent in the US and Israel. He is currently based in Shanghai.

Zhang, who says he worked with Garschagen for two years, first published his accusations in a Chinese WeChat post (“我炒了写假新闻的外媒记者“) via the ‘Foreign Media in China’ account (抢占外媒高地). After making its rounds in China’s journalism circles through the WeChat app, the story was also shared on Weibo and Twitter.

Zhang published an English version of his story on China Data Insider later on Monday and publicly contacted the NRC newspaper’s public advocate through Twitter, saying he wanted to expose “serious news fabrication.”

In his English post, titled “A Correspondent’s Guide to Making Fake News in China,” he writes:

“Being a news assistant who helps with pitching stories, conducting researches, conducting/arranging interviews, and translating any necessary Chinese materials but never gets to write a story or have a proper byline (not even a research byline), I dare not say I have mastered the dark art of making fake new. But I have the luck of working with one of the greatest masters of the dark art for two years and watching him fabricating, twisting and distorting stories on many occasions.”

In the article, Zhang then accuses Garschagen of bringing “fake news” in his reports on at least seven occasions. In one case, Zhang alleges that an interview included in a 2016 featured article about rising tensions around the South China Sea conflict actually did not take place at all:

“In June, 2016, as the South China Sea Arbitration Case became a global trending story, Mr Garschagen went to a small fishing town Tanmen, Hainan, with the hope of talking to Wang Shumao, deputy company commander of the maritime militia in Tanmen town. Mr Wang declined the interview request point blank. But why should a rejection get in the way of a good story? In the published story, Mr Garschagen said he waited for three days and finally “interviewed” Mr. Wang with the help from the provincial publicity department. Of course, the interview did not happen at all.”

In other examples, he says that the Dutch reporter made up names of persons included in his work, wrote about scenes he did not actually witness, quoted people saying things they had never said, or combined stories of separate individuals.

Zhang also alleges that for a report about the economically weakening coal city of Lüliang in 2015 – which was triggered by an initial story by – Garschagen and Zhang visited three places together: the airport, a coal mine, and the ‘Zhongfen Liquor City.’

Garschagen’s later report about the trip, however, focused on a cement factory in crisis which Zhang says they actually never visited – only the reporter of the original NPR story of four months earlier allegedly had been there.

The NPR story of September 2015 by international correspondent Frank Langfitt includes an interview with a cement factory’s lower-level manager named Gao, while Garschagen’s piece of January 2016 also includes an interview with the cement factory’s former manager (and security guard) named Gao.

Both interviews show various similarities, and both stories include a fragment on a domestic appliance shop owner by the name of “Lei” (“Lei Lili” in the NPR piece and “Lei Li” in the NRC article), who says her business is doing bad because the people of Lüliang have no income anymore.

“I’ve fired my boss today and I’m proud of this decision,” Zhang concludes his online complaint. The news assistant confirmed to Chinese English-language news site Sixth Tone that he emailed his resignation to Garschagen on Monday morning.

In response to the issue, Associated Press correspondent Gerry Shih tweeted on Monday: “Be nice to your news assistant today. Especially if you depend on him/her for everything. And you happen to make a lot of stuff up.”

After state media tabloid Global Times reposted Zhang’s article on WeChat and Weibo, news outlet Beijing Time (北京时间 also reported the story under the title “Time’s Up for ‘Story King’ Foreign Reporter” (“外媒记者当“故事大王”的日子已经不多了”).

Although some Chinese netizens believed Zhang’s account and said that foreign journalists often discredit China for their own political agenda, there were also people who questioned the story and wondered why it was republished by the Global Times, an outlet owned by official Party newspaper People’s Daily.

“I started to wonder when I saw the source,” one person wrote on WeChat. Others asked if the author might have written this to “to highlight their own justice.”

On alone, the story was viewed over 7,5 million times by Monday evening. Zhang’s original post was also republished on other Chinese news media sites such as Sina News and Phoenix News.

Beijing Time wrote that although the truthfulness of Zhang’s allegations had not yet been verified by a third party, “there are [indeed] some ‘story kings’ amongst foreign reporters, who are wasting their time relying on their imaginations and prejudice about China.”

Garschagen, who has an account on Twitter (@oscargarschagen) and Weibo, has not yet responded on social media to the allegations that were made against him by his former assistant. He did tell Sixth Tone that he was “surprised” and “did not understand the accusations.”

He also told Sixth Tone: “This attack on my integrity contains many distortions and untruths.”

In a 2014 interview with Dutch blog The Post Online, Garschagen said about his Chinese colleagues that he had a “very positive” view on them.


By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Media

Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Attends Fila Kids Junior Tennis Finals

Peng Shuai shows up at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenge Finals in Beijing.



Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai (彭帅) has ‘reappeared’ on Chinese social media for the first time her post of November 2nd (link) sent shockwaves across social media before it was taken offline.

Although her Weibo account has no new posts and searches for her name still do not come up with any recent content, Peng attended the Junior Tennis Challenge Grand Finals event while keeping a relatively low profile. Photos of Peng Shuai attending the Beijing event were shared by various accounts, including that of China Open (@中网ChinaOpen).

The Junior Tennis Finals are meant to cultivate Chinese tennis talent.

The event that Peng attended is the Diamond Cup Junior Tennis Challenge, which is meant for the 6-12 age group.

Peng’s appearance is noteworthy; over the past two weeks, international concerns have grown over the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis star. Famous tennis players including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams used the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai in joining the calls to locate the “missing” Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Peng had not been seen or heard from publicly she described the affair she allegedly had with former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli (张高丽) in her November 2nd Weibo post, in which she also claimed that Zhang once forced her into having sex.

While the issue was completely silenced in Chinese (social) media, the English-language state media outlet CGTN did address the commotion on Twitter on November 17, when they shared a screenshot of an email allegedly sent by Peng to WTA Chairman Steve Simon, saying she was not missing and not unsafe.

While many people still raised their concerns on Twitter and a White House spokesperson even said the Biden administration was ‘deeply concerned’ about the reports alleging that Peng Shuai had gone missing, photos of Peng Shuai in her home showed up on Friday (November 19th), posted on Twitter by Chinese journalist
Shen Shiwei (沈诗伟) claiming the tennis star posted them on her WeChat moments.

One day later, a video was also shared on Twitter by Shen, showing Peng having dinner and having conversations in which it was clearly indicated that the date was November 20, 2021.

Later, news came out that Peng also attended the Junior Tennis Finals during the weekend. After the email, the home pics, and the dinner, this was the fourth time news of Peng’s whereabouts made its rounds on Twitter, but it was the very first time in 19 days that she ‘reappeared’ in mainland China’s online media spheres.

“A familiar face came to the Diamond Cup,” one comment said, with others writing “long time no see” and “she showed her face!”

“She lost a lot of weight,” others said, not explicitly mentioning Peng Shuai’s name.

Some commenters just expressed they were happy to see the tennis champion “doing well” and being “safe and sound.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China Local News

Online Outrage after Pet Dog Gets Killed by Anti-Epidemic Workers in Shangrao

An official response to the Shangrao incident that called the killing of the dog “harmless disposal” only added fuel to the fire.



A pet dog was killed by anti-epidemic workers in Shangrao this week while its owner was undergoing quarantine at a nearby hotel. Chinese netizens are outraged, not only about the dog being killed during extreme efforts to contain Covid19, but also about the seemingly cold response of local authorities after it happened.

This weekend, a case in which a pet dog was killed by epidemic prevention workers in the city of Shangrao has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The incident occurred in the Golden Phoenix Garden community (金凤花园小区) in the Xinzhou district of Shangrao, a medium-sized prefecture-level city located in the northeast of Jiangxi province. Due to a new confirmed case of Covid19, the community is undergoing a lockdown and its residents are being quarantined while apartments are being disinfected.

On November 12, one of the community residents named Mrs. Fu (傅) shared on Weibo how her pet dog was presumably killed by anti-epidemic workers while she was undergoing quarantine at a local hotel that did not allow pets. She shared security footage recorded inside her residence from Friday around 16:45, showing how two epidemic workers enter her apartment and then begin to beat her pet dog on the head with iron bars.

The story and video sparked anger online, and the official response to the incident only added fuel to the fire.

On Saturday, November 13, Shangrao’s Xinzou district released a statement via its official Weibo channel (@信州发布). The statement, posted as late as 23:37, explained that residents of the community were supposed to leave their doors open while being quarantined, but that the door of this particular resident was closed. Anti-epidemic staff then received police assistance in entering the house to disinfect it, which is when they discovered the dog was at the home. The notice writes that the workers then proceeded to deal with the dog through “harmless disposal” (the literal words “无害化处理” could also be translated as ‘handling [something] to be made harmless’).

The statement also says that the worker has since been removed from his post and has apologized.

Very similar wording can be found in an article addressing the controversy in the English-language version of Chinese state media outlet Global Times, where the incident is described as a staffer who “culled a pet dog during anti-epidemic mission,” and that the staffer “gave harmless disposal on a pet dog without having fully communicated with the pet owner.”

Other reports in Chinese media about the incidents received criticism from netizens for emphasizing anti-epidemic policies and the otherwise “humane” treatment of animals.

“Don’t you think you’re laughable? You have some nerve to report on this like this,” one top comment said.

By now, the incident has attracted the attention of thousands of netizens using various hashtags, with one of them gaining over 170 million on views on Weibo, becoming one of the top trending topics on Sunday (#居民在外隔离期间家中小狗被扑杀#, #上饶正调查隔离人员宠物狗被扑杀#, #上饶回应隔离宠物狗疑似被扑杀#).

“The government of Shangrao leaves me speechless,” one Weibo user (@爱吃火锅的邓邓) writes: “This dog was not even confirmed of having Covid19. Nevertheless, they just beat him to death. How can you be so cruel?!”

In September of this year, three pet cats that tested positive for Covid19 were put down in the Chinese city of Harbin. That incident also led to a social media backlash at what some viewed as overkill in local efforts to contain the virus. This case, however, is still different because the dog involved was allegedly killed before even getting tested for Covid19.

“You just ‘dispose’ of the dog and that’s it? The dog’s life is over! We don’t even know how many dogs were killed like this,” others responded.

“Prying open people’s doors, killing people’s pets, and then pressuring people to delete their posts on the matter, forcing them to settle (..), – Shangrao government is really putting itself on display here,” one commenter said, referring to online rumors that Mrs. Fu was pressured by authorities into deleting her social media post – she posted about being threatened herself.

The dog owner claims she is being threatened and pressured into deleting her social media post.

The dog owner also claims that at least one other cat and dog by residents living in the same community have also been “disposed of.” At the time of writing, this claim has not been confirmed by official sources.

Meanwhile, a poster showing a cat saying “I can’t transmit covid19, please don’t abandon or hurt me” is circulating on social media. The Shanghai Center for Disease Prevention and Control reportedly stated it is unlikely for small pets to get Covid19, and that they therefore should not need to be screened.

I can’t transmit covid19, please don’t abandon or hurt me.”

The terms “harmless disposal” (无害化处置) and “culling” (扑杀) that have been used by some Chinese state media and local authorities in describing the Shangrao incident are also circulating online, with many people expressing disbelief in the seemingly cold and careless way in which the unnecessary killing of pets is being portrayed.

Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin also posted about the issue, writing: “In my opinion, even from the perspective of crisis communication, this was certainly not a successful notice. It is not surprising to see it trigger controversies online.”

At the same time, Hu also called on people not to condemn China’s zero-covid19 approach over this controversy, writing: “We cannot deny the overall hard work of the grassroots pandemic prevention workers because of a specific case.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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