MH370: Did the L.A. Times get fooled by Tianya forum?
The Los Angeles Times reported that the stolen passports used by two passengers on the plane were used to apply for work permits in China, but is that really true?
The LA Times bases its story on the claim by Xie Zhuoling, who works for a company that recruits foreign performers for entertainment purposes in bars and hotels. He raised his claims on the Chinese forum Tianya, where he posted a photo of a purported employment agreement with Christian Kozel and Luigi Maraldi, who were listed on the flight manifest because two Iranian men boarded with their passports.
On Tianya, he said:
“A few days ago my company discovered a contract signed with a foreigner (My company’s juridical person already stamped it). The person who signed it for my company has later disappeared! After comparing information online, I became suspicious that it has something to do with the mysterious passport used on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight! Please everyone share so that the relevant departments can pay attention and investigate. I hope to provide clues in the search for the missing plane.”
He said he had faxed the contract to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs but hadn’t heard back from them.
The agreement says it was signed by his party, Ninxia Yihai Shengshi Cultural and Entertainment Company (宁夏艺海盛世文化传媒公司), on June 8, 2013, and the work period is listed as being from February 15, 2014 to May 14, 2014.
However, a reporter with Ningxi News found a few reasons to be skeptical of Xie Zhuoling’s claims. The agreement lists both people on one form, but it doesn’t list any party recruiting the individuals. Furthermore, he also posted an image of the tickets for the flight to Beijing, but he had conflicting stories about where the image came from. The image was circulated by CNN on March 9, and Xie’s first post was on March 14, but Xie is quoted as having said that he got the tickets from China Southern Airlines.
Ninxia News’s reporter wrote:
The reporter saw, although the agreement had written on it, foreign cooperation agreement, the foreign employees are just invited workers, not first parties to the agreement, but in fact the first party has to go through a foreign entertainment company to contact foreign employees and invited them. The words “foreign cooperation agreement” are irrelevant, and from start to finish there was no first party company or organization named. In response, many netizens questioned the authenticity of the document and had strong doubts.
User “柒妙忆” questioned: “Even if the first party isn’t a company but a private person, [even if] the two parties requested don’t print the name, leave it blank and fill it in by hand, why is there just a second party and no first party?” User “蜀于秋池” said: “The relationship of the two parties in the agreement is muddled. The provisions over the performance fees paid are a mess. Even if this agreement were just a cover, would it have this many mistakes? Or perhaps the “juridical person” the poster mentioned has only graduated elementary school?”
On March 18, the reporter interviewed Xie Zhuoling. To the question of the source of the online transportation eticket and the agreement, Xie Zhuoling said he found the airplane ticket himself on the internet. That answer is obviously different than what he told other netizens that “Southern Airlines gave it to him.”
A purported QQ chat transcript posted by another Tianya user, in which Xie claims to have received the tickets from Southern Airlines:
A previous version of this story had been written that tied Xie’s claims together with other outrageous claims about the reason for the flight’s disappearance, but this story was updated for relevancy.