Jinpeng an

It Wasn’t Me: Professor Says Rags-to-Riches Story Is Fake News

Local officials made up a poignant past for a Peking University math professor.

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For trăng tròn years, a Peking University professor has been struggling khổng lồ cast off the heroic role imposed on hyên by a local government.

After An Jinpeng won a gold medal at the 1997 International Mathematical Olympiad, spurious inspirational stories about him began to circulate in print & online. The stories described An — now a mathematics professor at Peking University, one of China’s top educational institutions — as a boy from an impoverished family who strived for excellence so he could repay his mother’s hard work.

Two decades later, media outlets are still spreading the touching tales, portraying An in the style of Lei Feng, a soldier who became an almost mythical figure in the Mao era for his hard work & willingness to help others. A social truyền thông media tài khoản affiliated with state news agency Xinhua posted An’s supposed story on Christmas Eve sầu 2017.

But An has repeatedly denied the stories as fabrications. “It’s so ridiculous,” he said in a recent interview with The Intellectual, an trương mục on social media network WeChat that focuses on science and humanism.

Most of the stories are based on a series of articles written by Zhang Youde, a former deputy cultural bureau chief of the district in Tianjin where An is from. After An won the math olympiad medal, Zhang & other officials visited his family. “I thought they wanted khổng lồ ask things about the competition và the gold medal, but instead they asked my parents how poor we were, & tried khổng lồ steer the conversation lớn the topic of poverty,” An told The Intellectual.

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After the visit, Zhang wrote several articles about An, mostly in the first person: In one, An was the only student at his high school who could not afford lớn buy even the vegetable dishes in the cafeteria, while another said An’s father had precancerous colon polyps.

wrote that my father had cancer, but my father never had cancer — he was always healthy,” An said in the interview. Another article mentioned An’s marriage, but both the name of his wife and the date of their marriage were incorrect.

Despite An’s clarification attempts over the years — including an explanation published on his personal blog in 2006 — the stories are still in circulation. On Thursday, Sixth Tone tried to lớn reach Zhang, but an employee at the Wuqing District cultural bureau said he had retired years ago. “If the articles are fabricated, I would like lớn apologize,” she said, but requested anonymity because she was not authorized khổng lồ speak lớn truyền thông media about the issue.

An said the articles are a source of embarrassment because they give sầu people false impressions of hlặng. Schools around the country have sầu invited him lớn give inspirational speeches, strangers have contacted him for financial aid, & authorities have sầu used his story as reading material on exams.

Yet An knows why the stories are popular. “Considering the social context back then, I underst& the phenomenon. Even now, I can still understvà it because wrote in such a touching way,” he told The Intellectual. “The story emphasizes hard work và repaying one’s family, which easily strikes a chord with readers.”

Similar fabrications continue lớn pop up across social media. In December, a local government in eastern China’s Shandong province made a false announcement that a 14-year-old student had signed a “contract” with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his talent in computer programming. MIT later denied the news.

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Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A boy reads a book in his school dorm room in Beijing, May 27, 2015. VCG)

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