Last month, China's most feared fraud detector Fang Zhouzi noticed American entrepreneur Ping Fu making improbable claims in interviews as publicity for her book, "Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds" and went to work debunking them in his trademark meticulous style.
For people familiar with China's horrendous Cultural Revolution and tumultuous early 1980s, Fang's takedown left little doubt of the veracity of Fu's wilder claims to media, some of which she then retracted, suggesting the record would be set straight if people would just read her book.
Meanwhile, press coverage of Fu and her book was almost exclusively as uncritical as it was patronising, led by The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Forbes as well as others.
Exhaustive attempts were made in comment sections to explain the issue, but Fu's supporters appeared unwilling to listen. Even senior Reuters editor Harold Evans (and husband of Daily Beast founder Tina Brown) turned out to vouch for Fu, calling online appeals to reason a persecution.
Of course by this time actual internet trolls, the ones who fabricate China's history in the opposite direction, had joined in, but all of this appeared lost on Fu's unquestioning cheerleaders who, variously, dismissed all the feedback as an attack by Chinese internet vigilantes, a coordinated smear campaign against Fu, now placed high "on the vituperative frontline of cyber hostilities between China and the West".
Ping Fu, the woman in the picture posing with the other Red Guards, who emerged from the Cultural Revolution politically correct enough to be one of the highly privileged few allowed to study abroad in the early 1980s.
Eventually some sense came into play via The Guardian's Tania Branigan and Ed Pilkington, who took the time to read the book.
What did they find?One of her most striking claims is that Sun Yat-sen, revered as the father of modern China, "raised my grandfather and granduncle as his own sons" – akin to a Briton being reared by Winston Churchill. Prof John Wong of the University of Sydney, an expert on Sun's life, said he had no knowledge of such wards.
Fu told the Guardian: "That was what I was told by my family before I left China. I believe this is true. My mother says it's in history books." She then added that Sun was attentive towards them, rather than actually adopting them.
In a chapter of her book titled Factory Worker, Fu describes labouring in factories for a decade until schools reopened in 1976. She describes working six hours a day, six days a week and told an interviewer she never went to school in 10 years.
Experts on the cultural revolution told the Guardian schools mostly reopened in 1968 or 1969 and that pupils had lessons in factories to learn skills, but were not used as labour.