Newspaper apologises for snapping photos of deceased singer

A Chinese newspaper issued an apology early Sunday for taking photos of a popular singer after she died on Friday from breast cancer at a hospital in Beijing.

The Shenzhen Evening News issued the apology to the family, friends and fans of singer Yao Beina on their official Sina Weibo account - a Twitter-like microblogging site. Yao passed away on Friday afternoon in Beijing.

"We sincerely apologise for the disturbance and discomfort we have caused to Yao's family, fans and netizens," Shenzhen Evening News wrote.

The statement confirmed that the paper's reporters entered the make-shift operating room to take photos as doctors took corneas from the dead singer Yao, at about 19:00 on Jan 16. Reporters deleted all photos at the scene when Yao's family showed opposition, and thus were forgiven by Yao's father, the statement said, adding that thereafter the newspaper have kept in contact with Yao's family over the incident.

Additionally, Shenzhen Evening News wrote in the statement that the paper together with four partners decided to withdraw an initiative to establish a foundation in the name of Yao Beina after opposition from Yao's father. The newspaper also promised that they would refund the first two donations they had received.

The photo-taking incident was first reported early Saturday by a microblogger, entertainment Whistleblower, on Sina Weibo. The microblogger posted that three reporters with the newspaper slipped into the mortuary disguised as medical workers and took photos of the dead singer without the permission of Yao's family. By noon, the news has been forwarded more than 10,000 times, with thousands of comments criticising the newspaper's unethical practices.

Famous Chinese actors and singers also joined in demands for an apology from Shenzhen Evening News.

Yao Beina, who sang the theme song for the Chinese version of the TV drama "The Back Palace: Legend of Zhen Huan," became famous in China after she showed up as a contestant in the reality talent show "The Voice of China" in 2013.

She had her left breast removed in 2011 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. After years of battling with the deadly disease, she died at the age of 33.

Yao earned praise among her fans as she decided to donate her corneas before her death.

One of her corneas was transplanted on Saturday evening to a 23-year-old man from Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, Southwest China's Sichuan province. Her other cornea went to a 25-year-old man in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen.

Her death has brought breast cancer awareness to the spotlight again, following American actress Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo a mastectomy.