Man Follows Stolen iPhone Across The World, Becomes A Celebrity In China

These days most of us can’t live without being no more than a few feet away from our mobile phones. They are tools that help us to be more productive and efficient in our lives.

They allow us to communicate with others online through email and instant messaging. Mobile phones also help us to better organise our lives. It comes as no surprise that having our mobiles stolen can be devastating.

With devices like the iPhone, the good news is that most of our personal data gets backed up in “the cloud”. That means we can easily transfer that data onto a new device. Because of their high value, the Apple iPhone is a sought-after target for thieves.

Most stolen iPhones end up in the Far East, in places such as Hong Kong and China. And that’s what happened to the iPhone belonging to one man from New York.

8,000 miles away

Matt Stopera is a staff writer for the BuzzFeed website. He recalls how his remarkable story began one evening in New York. Back in February 2014 he went for some drinks to a local bar. To his horror, he soon discovers someone had stolen his iPhone from the table where he was sat.

matt stopera buzzfeed
Matt Stopera

His efforts to try and find his phone were futile, with the device going straight to voicemail. Fast-forward a year later and he’s rocking a new iPhone. The weird thing is, he notices that photos of some Chinese guy keep appearing in his Photo Stream.

brother orange

Both he and a friend soon deduce that his stolen iPhone has ended up with this person. Various photos are of the man next to buildings with Chinese writing on them, so they work out the iPhone is in China.

Matt becomes something of a celebrity when he posts up a story on BuzzFeed asking who the man is.

Brother Orange

Soon after an international search gets carried out to track down this Chinese man. Matt discovers his story got translated and posted up on the social network Weibo. People start referring to the man in the photos as the Orange Tree Man. That’s because some of his photos got taken beside orange trees. Later on, that man would become known as “Brother Orange.”

Once the man got found, thanks to the power of the Internet, Matt signs up to Weibo and starts chatting to him. It turns out the man, Li Hongjun, got given the iPhone as a gift from his cousin.

matt stopera weibo
The first day Matt joined Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Facebook) he gained 50,000 followers!

The pair chat to each other on Weibo for some weeks and then “Brother Orange” invites him out to China!

An extraordinary turn of events then ensues. With the help of BuzzFeed and a couple of translators, Matt flies out to meet Brother Orange. The pair get treated like celebrities. They are often seen on Chinese social networks and the media!

matt meets brother orange

For the next few days, Matt strikes up an unlikely friendship with Brother Orange. The pair spend several days together, and Matt feels like he’s with a long-lost brother! And, yes, Brother Orange gives Matt back his stolen iPhone.

Today, Matt and Brother Orange are the best of friends, albeit of the long-distance kind.

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