What made a Chinese teen stow away to Dubai?

An ariel view shows the Burj Khalifa, the world"s tallest tower, dominating the Dubai skyline on April 10, 2016. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Are there rich beggars in Dubai?

The story of a Chinese teenager who stowed away on a plane to Dubai, reportedly hoping to make money there as beggar, has sparked a conversation in China about misinformation.

The stowaway was identified by Chinese media as a 16-year-old boy from Sichuan named Xu. He was found on 27 May, hiding in the cargo hold of flight EK303 from Shanghai.

The official Xinhua news agency and the Chengdu Economic Daily reported the boy had said he did it because he had heard beggars in Dubai could make 470,000 yuan ($71,275; £49,300) a month.

Earlier this year, there was a story being shared widely on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo with the hashtag #DubaiBeggarsMake470000YuanMonthly.

The China Daily report said non-United Arab Emirates citizens were making a fortune begging, some making 270,000 dirhams (that is where the 470,000 yuan figure comes from).

At the time, people online were saying they were "prepared to go begging in Dubai" and some posts showed flight tickets with the caption "Do not stop me going".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some netizens thought Chinese media was to blame for disseminating misleading stories

After Tuesday's story about Xu the hashtag is trending once again, with some people expressing amusement and others being much more critical.

"People with dreams deserve praises," said Chi Ma Xiao De Xiao Ma Fa.

But Kai Ge Lu - Deng Ta Hui Lai said on Weibo: "Are people who praise the teenager being serious? Everyone knows that entering the country in that way is illegal.

"Also, the teenager wants to reap without sowing if he wants to be a beggar in Dubai to make money."

Some users were blaming the media for spreading rumours about the riches of Dubai.

On CCTV's official Weibo account, a user left the comment: "Media that have been publishing inaccurate reports should bear responsibility. They should be held accountable."

BBC Chinese also spoke to two travellers from Shanghai to Dubai who thought social media reports had misled the boy.

So is there any truth to the story?

The China Daily report appears to be based on a story on Gulf News from April this year when Dubai police arrested a beggar who they said was making 270,000 dirhams per month.

Dubai police carry out campaigns to stop begging on the streets and the man was arrested as part of the raid.

Police said they had caught "professional" beggars, some of them carrying passports with business or tourist visas, but did not say how many of the 59 beggars detained were found with large amounts of money.

Reporting by Grace Tsoi, Yashan Zhao, Saira Asher and Kerry Allen

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