Shortly after joining a Facebook group for residents of a suburb in Melbourne, Australia, an account called “Gloria Leung” offered to pay group members to buy toilet paper — an item being stockpiled in the coronavirus outbreak — for her.
“You get $1 per packet you buy to help us ! If you work fast, you make big money,” the post said.
Multiple versions of this post, and others like it, have been widely shared across big Australian right wing Facebook pages since March 4.
One page, the Quiet Australian, shared it with the caption “How Un Australian Is This Chinese Woman – name and shame!” This post has been shared more than 6,700 times.
A screenshot of the post circulated on Twitter and Reddit too.
Concerned people tagged Australian TV news programs and government ministers in posts about Leung, begging them to put a stop to it.
There’s also a Facebook page for a company called Lucky Destiny Exports that promises to “buy and trade luxury quality Australian product and sell to lucky Chinese client” that is linked to the Gloria Leung account.
The account, group and page hit all the right notes for a rage share. It combined fears of people missing out on basic goods during the coronavirus pandemic, concerns about profiteering, and used a racist caricature that stoked anti-Asian, and in particular anti-Chinese, sentiment in the Australian population.
But the post, company and Leung herself are almost certainly fake.
Leung’s Facebook profile appears to be recently created, with none of the account’s pictures posted before March. The company’s Facebook page was created on March 8. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any trace of Leung or the company on the internet before this month.
Some of content associated with the account is taken from elsewhere. Leung’s photograph is from an AirBnB profile for a UK-based host called Jenny. The image has been on her profile since at least Feb. 3, 2020, according to reverse image searching tool TinEye. It’s also the first result when you Google Image search “Chinese lady”.
The photograph of toilet paper that accompanies Leung’s post appears to have been taken from a widely shared tweet posted on March 3.
Leung didn’t respond to questions sent by Facebook messenger and email.
The Facebook group has been deleted, but archived versions of it reveal that it was used to share satirical and Sinophobic content.
Its members would share toilet paper memes, make Sinophobic jokes, and troll people who joined the group thinking it really was selling toilet paper at exorbitant prices.
Soon after Leung’s account was created, an admin of “Toilet Paper Buy/Swap/Sell/Export Australia 购买澳大利亚厕纸” made an announcement claiming Leung had purchased the account and had taken over it. The name was subsequently changed to “Gloria Leung’s Toilet Paper Buy/Swap/Sell Export Group”.
“Some of you, or a lot of you, will be aware of a particular group member, Gloria Leung,” he wrote. “She has certainly divided opinions, but if nothing else, she is ambitious and steadfast in her convictions.”
The admin didn’t respond to questions sent via Facebook Messenger about Leung.
Another person who had commented on Leung’s photos told BuzzFeed News by Facebook Messenger that she was a “long time friend”. This user said Leung has been “on the end of some horrible racial taunts”.
When asked, she declined to provide any proof that Leung was real. The user promised to message Leung and ask her to respond to BuzzFeed News’ messages. Leung has yet to message.