Since our launch on June 30, 2015, Hong Kong Free Press has served up over eight million web pages. Some of our “most viral” stories of 2015 included our live blog of the Tianjin explosions, escalator incidents in China and the Ashley Madison data leak. 

1. ‘Like a swimming pool’: Chinese netizens marvel at cleanliness of Japanese flood waters – September 11, 2015

Japanese flooded subway
Photo: HKFP.

Images of a flooded subway in the eastern Japanese city of Hamamatsu went viral on Chinese social media, not because of the damage caused by a tropical storm but because of the cleanliness of the flood water. Web users compared the clarity of the water to that of a swimming pool while some went a step further, admitting that “even our swimming pools aren’t this clean.”

2. Mother crushed saving her son in horrific shopping mall escalator collapse in China – July 27, 2015

escalator horror
Photo: Screenshot of CCTV footage from shopping mall in Jingzhou, Hubei province.

A 31-year-old Chinese mother named Xiang Liujuan died after becoming trapped following the sudden collapse of an escalator at Anliang Department Store, Jingzhou, Hubei province. The woman fought to push her son out of danger before being swallowed by the mechanism.

3. Fake Chinese bubble tea pearls made from old tyres, shoe soles – report – October 21, 2015

Tyre milk tea
Tyre tea? Photo: HKFP.

A report from Chinese regional broadcaster Shandong Television revealed that the tapioca balls in pearl milk tea – one of the country’s favourite drinks – may be made from leather shoe soles and used tyres.

4. There is no internet censorship in China, says China’s top censor – December 9, 2015

china internet censorship
Lu Wei. Photo:

Lu Wei, chief of the State Internet Information Office in China who is known as the “gatekeeper” of China’s internet, denied that the country censors online information. He said China does not censor but “manages” internet content in Zhejiang.

5. More than 150,000 Ashley Madison users registered to just two GPS locations in Hong Kong – August 31, 2015

ashley madison website
The Ashley Madison website.

The GPS locations of more than 150,000 Ashley Madison users were revealed to be concentrated in two places in Hong Kong, namely a spot just outside Murray Building in Central and Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai. The discovery comes after the dating website, which is marketed towards married individuals, was targeted by hackers and had its user database published online.

6. LIVE: Huge explosion in Chinese port city of Tianjin – August 13, 2015

Tianjin fire live

HKFP’s live blog of a massive explosion that tore apart a logistics centre in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, 145km southeast of capital Beijing. The death toll from the explosion stood at 112 on August 16, with scores of firefighters unaccounted for and more than 720 people in hospital.

7. In Pictures: Huge crater revealed at Tianjin Ground Zero as area is evacuated – August 16, 2015

Tianjin blast aftermath.
Blast crater in the port of Tianjin.

The massive explosion and subsequent fires in Tianjin in August left behind an equally massive crater, about 60 metres wide and 7 metres deep. It soon filled with water following rainy weather which had a toxic cyanide level that exceeded safety limits by over 800 times.

8. Escalator death horror at Chinese mall could have been prevented – report – July 28, 2015

escalator crush china
Photo: Weibo

A mother who was crushed by an escalator which collapsed at a Chinese shopping mall could have been saved if staff were trained properly, according to a CCTV report. The tragedy could have been prevented had the three shop assistants standing nearby pushed a button to stop the escalator, which they knew was malfunctioning. Instead, they verbally warned Xiang, according to an investigation by state broadcaster CCTV as well as the victim’s sister-in-law.

9. Farmer arrested for allegedly opening fake China Construction Bank  August 18, 2015

fake china construction bank
The fake CCB branch. Photo:

A farmer in eastern China was arrested after he allegedly opened a bogus bank office mimicking the look of the state-owned China Construction Bank (CCB). The fake CCB branch in Lanling, Shandong was raided by local police, according to China News Service.

10. ‘Uncivilised’ behaviour gets Chinese tourists sent home with 10-year US visas revoked – September 21, 2015

LAX customs
LAX customs. Photo: HKFP.

Two Chinese travellers were repatriated upon arrival in the United States after immigration officers found they had “uncivilized [behaviour] records,” according to the Chinese-language World Journal. Both also had their ten-year visas revoked before returning from Los Angeles International Airport to their native Shanghai. Privacy law bars US customs from disclosing details behind the two men’s cases, and both have been unwilling to elaborate on what “uncivilised behaviour” earned them their place on the blacklist. However, acts of a similar magnitude are known to include “damaging cultural relics, gambling, and participating in obscene activities.”

Medhavi Arora is in her final year at the University of Hong Kong studying Journalism and International Relations. Her print, video and multimedia pieces have been featured in the Times of India and CNN-IBN. She is a former intern at UN Women and has additional experience in sustainability, international affairs and communications.