Netizens have questioned the story of a Hong Kong man who paid HK$400,000 to propose to his girlfriend with a banner flown from a helicopter.

Blogger Relgitsjg posted a photo on Tuesday morning apparently featuring the couple at a pre-wedding photo shoot in Iceland. The image, seemingly shot two months ago, implied that the pair were already engaged and that the elaborate proposal was staged.

According to the South China Morning Post, Victor Tang, a 37-year-old Hutchison Global Communications employee, rented a corner suite at the ICC’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kowloon with his girlfriend and co-worker Stephanie Cheung. From there, Cheung watched as a helicopter—paid for by Tang—trailed a huge “will you marry me” banner across Victoria Harbour.

‘Pre-wedding’ photos that predate proposal. Photo: Relgitsjg via Facebook.

Labelled “Stephanie & Victor ~ Pre-wedding”, the photos were posted “two months ago” by photographer Muse Chan, who wrote in the description that “it’s already been one month” since the couple’s trip.

The story, which featured on the front page of the South China Morning Post’s Sunday print edition and dominated the paper’s website and social media feeds, has been called an “advertisement by Ritz-Carlton” by some readers.

Comments on the story’s second appearance. Photo: SCMP via Facebook.

“I think [the SCMP article] is very suspicious,” Relgitsjg wrote, pointing to the story’s numerous “selling points” such as the hotel and helicopter service.

On Tuesday afternoon, showreels from the couple’s Icelandic photoshoot also emerged on local photography site Photoblog.hk.

“I always chased him to propose but he just said ‘maybe November or December’ so this was totally beyond my expectations,” Stephanie told the SCMP. The “pre-wedding” photoshoot, however, apparently took place in April this year.

Vivian Li, Director of Public Relations for The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong told HKFP that the hotel had “no direct involvement in any publicity related to the event”.

HKFP reached out to the SCMP for comment but did not receive a response.

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Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others