Read more in Daily Speical: Online hunt ends in parents apology for teen’s Egypt graffiti
The parents of a 15-year-old boy apologized to the public via a Nanjing newspaper on Sunday after their son's handwriting was found written on a 3,500-year-old relic in Egypt, in an incident which prompted an online "human flesh search" to determine the boy's identity in order to harass him.
A photo posted online by a Weibo user named "Kongyouwuyi" shows several Chinese characters crookedly written on delicate sandstone on the east bank of the Nile River in Egypt, which has a history of more than 3,000 years.
"The sentence means Ding Jinhao has visited this place. This was the saddest and most shameful moment I had in Egypt. I apologized to our local tour guide, who comforted me instead, saying this was not our fault, and that it should be the local guide's responsibility to stop such behavior," Kongyouwuyi said on his post.
The photo, which was posted Friday, has been forwarded more than 90,000 times and triggered public outrage. The boy quickly became one of the hottest topics on Weibo.
A human flesh search showed that Ding is a 15-year-old middle school student in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province.
The exposed information included the boy's name, date of birth, and even primary school. This resulted in the school's website being hacked on Sunday. Visitors to the school website were forced to click on a message box which said "Ding has visited this place" before entering the website, according to the Beijing News, but the site can no longer be accessed.
Ding's parents contacted local media Saturday, apologizing for their son, admitting that they hadn't properly educated their child and pleaded for society to give him a chance.
"The boy has known about it since Friday and cried all night. He has had to be moved around because reporters rushed to their house for interviews," Modern Express reporter Li Shaofu, the only reporter to have direct contact with the parents, told the Global Times. The parents are now refusing to talk to the media.
The mother said her son was still very young at that time.
"The kid has a good academic record, but is a little introverted. This is too much pressure for him to take," the father said, asking the public not to bother his son's studies or life.
Gu Xiaoming, a professor at the Tourism Management Department of Fudan University, said the parents had shown responsibility by standing up to publish the apology, and that putting a boy through a human flesh search was too harsh.
"It's not only the boy, there are other tourists that leave graffiti on relics. But as the person is a minor, more protection and education should be given to him rather than criticism," Gu said.
The netizen "Labixiaoqiu" who released the boy's personal information said he had been quite considerate this time considering he was an underage juvenile, but the incident had shamed him as well as he is also from Nanjing.
It was not the first time Chinese tourists have made headlines for damaging relics. A man from Changzhou, Jiangsu Province was found carving his name and hometown at a site in Taiwan in 2009, the Modern Express reported.