The viral saga of the American journalist and the Chinese man who had been using his stolen iPhone climaxes and China’s social media get the feels.
Matt Stopera, 25, and Li Hongjun, 30, met for the first time on March 17 at an airport in southern China, in the final chapter of what some have called an international “bromance”.
In February, Stopera, a writer for website Buzzfeed, became famous in China for an article describing how photos from China began to appear on his iPhone photostream account, after the iPhone had been stolen from him in New York.
Using the photos as clues, Chinese netizens rallied to track the owner of the stolen iPhone and in no time traced it to Li, a restaurateur in Meizhou, a city in the southern province of Guangdong.
Li, known online as Brother Orange after his selfies with tangerine trees showed up in Stopera’s photostream, says his nephew had given him the secondhand phone as a gift last October, but he had no idea where the phone came from.
Li and Stopera then made the connection online and planned to meet in Meizhou.
Fittingly for a relationship developed over the Internet, the activities of Stopera and Li in Meizhou were exhaustively documented online.
Stopera, whose month-old Weibo account has nearly 180,000 fans, posted pictures of himself eating Chinese porridge and pickled radish, planting a tree, and taking a selfie with Li and tangerine trees.
Weibo users seemed tickled by the duo. “A genuine and slightly serious middle aged man versus an amiable, smiley American fellow – such an interesting pair,” writes one user.
Li says his life in Meizhou has not changed much since meeting Stopera. “It’s no big deal if customers want to take pictures with me. People call me ‘Brother Orange’, or take pictures of me when I’m walking on the street. It doesn’t bother me. It feels really good.” – Reuters