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Please do not use this photo

It was a closely guarded secret that 9-year-old earthquake survivor Lin Hao would accompany Yao Ming in leading China’s Olympic delegation into the stadium at the opening ceremony. There were 32 children in Lin Hao’s primary school class in Yingxiu. Only ten of them survived. When Lin Hao escaped from the collapsed building, he carried an unconscious classmate out with him. He then went back and rescued a second child.

So it was an emotional and very photogenic moment when the boy appeared with Yao Ming. Unfortunately there was something not quite right with the flag in his hand.


That was one of a set of pictures Xinhua sent out on the wire late on Friday night. An hour and a half later, Xinhua sent it again, this time with a notice to all clients: “This photograph has been withdrawn. Please do not use.” Not everyone obeyed that request. Among those who ignored it was Xinhua’s own website.


  1. on the other hand wrote:

    Sh*t. How could this happen?

    Condolences to anyone affected by the killing of an American visitor in Beijing. It’s a rare and isolated incident. I hope no visitor will feel threatened by it.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  2. OMBW wrote:

    An upside down flag is the International symbol for distress and emergency.

    I would say Sichuan is still in a state of emergency and a lot of folks there are in dire need of aid.

    Google trends show that interest in the area, still experiencing huge shocks and even new quakes , waned long ago. The residents in hastily built tent cities are living in deplorable and unsanitary conditions.

    Several volunteer Teacher sites have been established through viable charities, but there have been few offers of help from the east or west.

    It is too bad that the government tried to micro-manage this error instead of just owning the mistake and creating a chance for more dialogue. It is this lack of transparency and honesty that has drained compassion from an distrustful public–Chinese and western…

    Nine-year old hero Lin Hao is incapable of mistakes in my view….

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  3. sun bin wrote:

    the flag should be ok…but it is easily shifted along the pole, so the boy put his hand on the wrong end of the pole. i bought one of those flag pairs (the other being the olympic 5 ring) and thought i got it inverted at first.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  4. BChung wrote:

    Product defects…. sigh…..

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  5. OMBW wrote:

    Nice catch Sun Bin…

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  6. Funny! The more the Chinese Government tries to control the news, the more people know.

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  7. sun bin wrote:

    the kid is not alone. Zhang ziyi did the same

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  8. hottalk wrote:

    I don’t think most people outside of China even know what the PRC flag looks like.

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  9. Eric Havaby wrote:

    I think the least of his worries is which way to hold the flag. Just think what he has been through.

    “He was later awarded the title of “Teenage Hero in Earthquake Rescue and Relief.”"

    Er? Excuse me he is 9 years old - not a teenager for a while yet.

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  10. tao wrote:

    i think the picture was been showen on this website,means: this website is a mice , specialism the bad news of china , this website is the scum 我认为本网站刊登这个图片,证明本网站是只老鼠, 专门报道中国不好的消息,是个媒体的败类。

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  11. sun bin wrote:

    now it is the Korean President with the Taiji flag upside down :)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Xiao Lei wrote:

    Trust me on this. Most Chinese people don’t understand the meaning of an upside down national flag. They don’t understand this international symbol of distress. China has changed so fast that their people don’t have time yet to process all the changes. It’s quite embarrassing if you were to ask me.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 1:35 am | Permalink
  13. Bob wrote:

    This sort of thing just happens. Here it’s obviously just about a faulty 1 yuan flag.
    At the same time, if you’re you’re such a keen patriot that you make a kid carry the national flag, you should be able to explain to him how to do it. It’s not the kids fault, and no one is making fun of him, Tao. It’s the organizers fault.
    What everyone is paying attention to, is that the Chinese Gov itself made a big deal out of it. If they hadn’t told everyone not to use the photo, they wouldn’t have everyone talking about it now. That’s what it’s about Tao!
    I mean… Why am I even trying to explain this… You don’t give a … about what I’m saying anyway, eh Tao?
    Tao, Tao, Tao.

    I remember when out nincompoop president held a “Go Poland!” scarf once upside down - everyone was pissed. Not because we’re a nationalistic bunch of boneheads - because he considers himself to be the only truly righteously patriotic citizen. If so, hold the damn scarf properly!

    Friday, August 15, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  14. Ash Bond wrote:

    This is the problem when ill informed little people control giant organisations (governments, corporations) - No sense of humor, just toe the party line.

    Monday, August 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  15. Nimrod wrote:

    The child also has a faulty haircut. Oops.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 2:02 am | Permalink
  16. Richard wrote:

    Those who are surprised or wondering, Chinese culture has a wonderful practice of turning words upside-down. The world for “upside-down” sounds similar to “has arrived”.

    The character above is the character for Fortune, it is placed unside-down on purpose. When someone exclaims “Hey your Fortune is upside down” (Ni de fu dao le), Which sounds like “Hey, your fortune has ARRIVED!”

    So friends, the upside-down flag is saying “CHINA HAS ARRIVED”

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  17. Pippa wrote:

    I think he ate some thin.

    Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  18. Black Horse wrote:

    Lin Hao is not a pet of God, but a foundling of Death. Under his feet lie numberless souls.

    He was not a hero, he was only an accident. If the earthquake hadn’t come, how could he be? Also, if the earthquake had taken place in somewhere else, maybe there would be people doing better than him!


    Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: August 11 on Monday, August 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

    […] story of the Sichuan child who accompanied a flag-bearing Yao Ming around the stadium at the opening ceremonies, and […]

  3. […] The little earthquake dude with Yao had me at “Ni […]

  4. Global Voices Online » China: Flag Upside Down on Monday, August 11, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    […] and white cat posted a withdrawn Xinhua photo of the China Olympic delegation in which one of the Chinese flag is upside down. Posted by Oiwan Lam  Print Version Share […]

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