Police said Sunday that a local flower vendor did not try to prostitute a young girl to a pair of expatriates, who mistakenly thought the girl had been abducted into the sex trade and had the story posted on the Internet, according to a post on the Shanghai Public Security Bureau's official microblog.
The little girl turned out to be the niece of the peddler, who was actually only trying to sell the men flowers, according to Lu Feng, spokesperson for the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.
The incident, which one of the expat's wives posted on her microblog Saturday, had been reposted and commented on more than 1,000 times as of Sunday afternoon.
The men, who were unidentified, encountered the middle-aged women selling flowers outside of a night club near Jing'an Temple early Saturday morning, according to a post on the wife's microblog.
The vendor had a young girl with her who looked about 5 years old. According to the post, the flower peddler offered the men sex. The men, who assumed the vendor was offering them sex with the little girl, took the girl away from the vendor and called police. When officers arrived, they released the girl back into the care of the vendor and sent the two men on their way.
One of the men was in tears when he arrived home, according to his wife's post. She went on to question how the police could allow this to happen.
In the police response, Lu suggested the possibility that the men misunderstood the vendor's words.
It was not clear from either post whether either man spoke Chinese.
Microblog users added their two cents over the weekend. Some sympathized with the men; others doubted whether the story was true. Others accused the woman with strong language of fabricating the story to undermine the city's image.
By Sunday, the woman had deleted her account of the incident from the microblog.
The Global Times could not reach her for comment Sunday.