Fury after journalists sneak into morgue to photograph body of Voice of China singer Yao Beina

News about Yao Beina's decision to donate her corneas gets blanket coverage but anger erupts after reporters sneak into morgue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 January, 2015, 6:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 11:18am

Mainland Chinese praised a popular young singer for donating her corneas after she died of breast cancer on Friday, although the outpouring of emotion took on a tinge of anger after several journalists reportedly sneaked into the hospital mortuary to take photos of her remains.

Yao Beina rose to fame in Hong Kong and on the mainland after appearing as a contenstant on the Voice of China television show in 2013. She went on to sing the main theme song for the hit historical drama The Legend of Zhen Huan and recorded the Chinese version of Let It Go, from the Disney animated film Frozen. She was 33.

News about Yao's decision to donate her corneas received blanket coverage by official media and local newspapers, with Xinhua, People's Daily and the PLA Daily's Weibo account reporting her donations had allowed two people to see again.

But the outpouring of emotion was overshadowed by allegations that three reporters from a Shenzhen newpaper posed as medical staff at the hospital and entered the morgue where her body was being kept. They took photographs, according to Yao's family, but the pictures have not been released.

The accusation sparked a debate over media ethics. "The Shenzhen reporters tried all kinds of means to get photos of Yao. It's the result of the current deformed political and social situation on the mainland, as only entertainment reporters enjoy absolutely freedom of news-gathering and reporting," said Qiao Mu, the dean of the Centre for International Communication Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Qiao noted that state media largely ignored other news stories on Friday in favour of covering Yao's death.

"I would not try to criticise journalists because the bottom line with a free press is that it's always changing based on the development of the political and social situation," Qiao said.

"On the mainland, entertainment reporters are even more ruthless than their Western counterparts, or even Hong Kong reporters, because there is no way for them to dig out any private stories about presidents, or even local party chiefs."

Yao was admitted to the Peking University Shenzhen Hospital for treatment this month.

The Shenzhen Evening News started to carry regular feature reports about her battle, including her decision to donate her corneas and how her family found the ophthalmologist, Dr Yao Xiaoming.

Professor Hu Xingdou, a political commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said a widespread lack of respect for privacy should be blamed for the Shenzhen reporters' "immoral behaviour".

The singer's manager has posted a furious reaction on her Weibo account, demanding the newspaper apologise and threatening to disclose all the "dirty things" the paper has done.

The newspaper hasn't issued an official announcement.