Shanghai 5-star hotel under legal scanner for damaging Chinese student's personal belongings

By Du Qiongfang Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/6 21:13:40

In a centralized quarantine site near Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, medical personnel deployed by Shanghai Changning District Health Commission, have been working round the clock, despite risks of infection, for half a month, assisting quarantined inbound travelers and helping to identify possible COVID-19 carriers. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

A Chinese student, who was studying abroad, has initiated legal action against a five-star Shanghai hotel after hotel staff allegedly damaged his personal belongings while he was under treatment for COVID-19. 

Lin Sheng arrived in Shanghai in March and tested positive for COVID-19 during his centralized quarantine. On April 30, the student, who was pursuing his studies in Italy, claimed on Sina Weibo that all his belongings left at the Shanghai Keya International Hotel had been damaged while he was admitted at the designated local COVID-19 hospital. 

Apart from cash, the damaged items include his academic credentials and identification documents like passport, Italian residence permit, postgraduate admission certificate, and his iPad that had 140 of his illustrations created over the past year. 

Speaking to the Global Times on Sunday, Lin said what concerns him the most is he may not be able to continue his study in Italy due to the loss of the necessary certificates, which he obtained in a foreign country. 

After he arrived in Shanghai on March 17, Lin, a Wuhan native, left his check-in luggage at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport and brought his carry-on luggage to the hotel where he was put under centralized quarantine, per the local epidemic prevention policy. 

During the quarantine, Lin developed a fever and was later confirmed with the infection. Before he was shifted to the designated hospital for treatment, he was told by the medical staff that his belongings would be at the possession of the hotel. 

After he slightly recovered in early April, Lin fetched his check-in luggage back from the airport; however, he was informed by the hospital that his belongings left at the hotel were missing. 

After scrutinizing the surveillance camera footage,the local police found that the hotel room where he stayed was thoroughly disinfected as soon as he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24. During the sanitization, a cleaner took out all his personal items from the room on March 26. However, there was no further surveillance camera footage available to ascertain the condition of his belongings thereafter. Upon further questioning, the hotel staff revealed that his belongings were dealt with as clinical waste. 

Lin told the Global Times the local police suggested him to resolve the issue privately by settling the disputes with the hotel through negotiation. 

A contact named Shen Yinghua who is negotiating the matter with Lin on behalf of the hotel told the Global Times on Sunday the hotel has been proactively communicating with Lin, but they are yet to reach any final agreement as of press time. "The hotel will issue an official announcement when the dispute is settled," Shen said. 

Lin told the Global Times since all his academic certificates are lost, he may not be able to further his study in Italy when the epidemic ends, and thus he sought compensation for the study abroad application expenditure, which continues to be a matter of dispute between the hotel and Lin.

"During the negotiation, the hotel has agreed to an amount of over 80,000 yuan ($11,331.12), including the cost of my iPad and the compensation for 60 out of my 140 illustrations at the price of 500 yuan each, which is the lowest limit of what I can bear," Lin said. 

"I also wanted to pencil the term of a 140,000-yuan compensation for the overseas study application fees and the tuitions in Italy in the agreement, in case I could not return to Italy, which they disagreed," said Lin who has been learning painting since he was 4 years old, and had been preparing for overseas study since he was a junior at university. 

Lin told the Global Times his experience of missing belongings is an isolated incident as no other patient lost their luggage. An official from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Pudong New Area told the Global Times on Wednesday under the condition of anonymity that confirmed patients of COVID-19 would, in theory, take their luggage with them if they are shifted from the centralized quarantine site to the designated COVID-19 hospital in Shanghai. "But the situations may also differ depending on different people," the official added. 

After his recovery and discharge from the hospital on April 30, Lin assigned a third-party to settle his dispute with the hotel. 

As of press time, Lin's post on Sina Weibo has garnered over 204,800 reposts with nearly 50,700 comments and 738,500 likes. 

Many IT professionals and warm-hearted netizens left their comments, instructing him how to recover his illustrations through iCloud or other cloud storage functions. 

Other netizens extended their sympathy with Lin's loss of his Italian residence permit by highlighting the hardships of obtaining a residency in Italy. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, overseas Chinese students returning to China have stirred some heated debates. While most netizens have extended their support to Lin, a Weibo user with the handle @wszdanzdm lashed out at Lin for returning to China with the virus. However, such a comment was severely refuted by other users who believe as a Chinese national, Lin's rights should be protected.

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