China Miner ‘Found Alive After 17 Years Underground’ is Fake; Cheung Wai Story Merely a Hoax

May 12, 2014 Last Updated: May 14, 2014

An article saying that a Chinese miner was discovered living underground for 17 years is fake.

The false report was published on self-described “satire” website World News Daily Report.

“All news articles contained within are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction,” reads a disclaimer on the website.

The fake report about the miner being found has generated thousands of shares and “likes” on Facebook.

“A group of coal miners from the western province of Xinjiang, had an unbelievable surprise when the gallery they were excavating opened up on a section of an old mine, that was abandoned 17 years ago after an earthquake that caused some large sections of the tunnels to collapse,” it reads.

“While they were exploring the galleries, they stumbled upon Cheung Wai, a 59-year old survivor from the 1997 accident, obviously in a rather bad shape. He was immediately taken to the hospital where a complete evaluation of his physical and mental states will be done over the next weeks.”

Fake reports–and especially celebrity death hoaxes–can generate a significant amount of revenue for websites if they go viral, according to Tim Stevens, the editor at large at CNET.

“A site like TMZ makes maybe 100 million page views a month. Obviously, these fake sites aren’t getting anywhere near that, but if they can get really a fraction of that, they can make tens of thousands of dollars off of one of these fake stories over just a couple of days,” he told CBS several weeks ago after a death hoax about “Pawn Stars” reality star Austin “Chumlee” Russell went viral.

“If you’re someone who just casually reads headlines or reads the first couple sentences of a story, you probably would never notice that these stories are fake,” he continued.

The satire about the miner being trapped, however, highlights the perilous nature of China’s coal mining industry, which is said to be the most dangerous in the world.

A Wall Street Journal report said that  about 1,049 miners were killed in work-related accidents last year. A few years ago, that number was as high as 2,000 deaths per year, according to reports from the AFP news agency at the time.

“Accidents at China’s coal mines have caused more than 33,000 deaths in the last decade, according to data from the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety,” reads a report from the Journal last month.

A few weeks ago, 26 miners were killed in an accident in southwestern Yunnan Province. Officials said that an early-morning explosion caused the mine to flood.