Hong Kong (CNN) — Parents of a 15-year-old Chinese tourist have apologized after the teenager defaced a stone sculpture in an ancient Egyptian temple with graffiti.
The act drew ire in both Egypt and China — generating a massive online backlash amongst China’s unforgiving netizens.
The vandal carved ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple.
This was photographed by an embarrassed Chinese traveler and shared on weibo, China’s micro-blogging site on May 24.
“The saddest moment in Egypt. I’m so embarrassed that I want to hide myself. I said to the Egyptian tour guide,’I’m really sorry,'” that traveler wrote on the original weibo post.
“We want to wipe off the marking with a towel. But we can’t use water since it is a 3,500 relic.”
It didn’t take long — actually, just a day — before outraged netizens tracked down Ding in Nanjing.
Slammed online and exposed further in the mainstream, Ding’s parents quickly contacted media outlets.
“We want to apologize to the Egyptian people and to people who have paid attention to this case across China,” Ding’s mother said in a China Daily report.
Ding’s parents said they shouldered the responsibility of what their son did, adding he had learned his lesson.
The original weibo post was re-tweeted almost 90,000 times, received over 18,000 comments and was widely distributed across local media.
“Reading this disastrous news this morning is heartbreaking. I despise this behavior, especially in Egypt — the place I love. Now, I just want to say ‘Sorry’ to Egypt,” commented weibo user “Net bug jing jing.”
“It’s a disgrace to our entire race!” said another angry micro-blogger.
In a state-run Xinhua media report, one of the agency’s photographers said local Egyptian staff had worked to try and clean the sculpture. While there was some improvement, the graffiti could not be totally removed.
Outbound Chinese tourism has expanded rapidly in recent years. In 2012, Chinese overtook Americans and Germans as the world’s top international tourism spenders, with 83 million people spending a record US$102 billion on international tourism.
That growth has brought with it a backlash in some industry sectors. (See our report on Chinese tourism: The good, the bad and the backlash)
Earlier this month, Beijing called on its nation’s tourists to improve their behavior, with Vice Premier Wang Yang stating it was important to project a good image of Chinese tourists.