On July 6, the New Tang Dynasty (NTD) reported that local administrations in China had set fire to grain stocks to cover-up a serious grain shortage, referencing online rumors.
The article repeated a claim circulating on Facebook, Twitter and Weibo that the grain stocks were set ablaze to cover-up shortages before central government inspectors arrived, with photos and videos purportedly showing fires at storage facilities in different cities in China.
However, many of the images and videos are misleading.
The picture used at the top of the NTD article, for example, is a cropped version of a news photo taken by AFP in the U.S. on May 28, 2020, during a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Although the caption indicates the image was used for illustration purposes, NTD does not say it is not in China, or that it does not show grain stocks on fire.
A Twitter post with a video quoted in the NTD article claims that fires erupted at grain stock facilities in Shanghai, Henan and Guizhou recently, as part of a rumored cover-up operation. But the video clip was taken in December 2019.
According to news reports by CCTV and The Paper, the fire broke out at a storehouse of a private oil company called Shanghai Jiali Grain and Oil Limited. The facility stored popular cooking oil known by its brand name Golden Dragon Fish Oil.
The video says “12 firefighter squads, 46 fire trucks and 322 firefighters” were sent to deal with the incident. These numbers match with what news organizations reported about the storehouse last year. Buildings in the video are also identical to another news video on the same incident.
A fire indeed took place at a grain stock facility in Duyun, Guizhou, on June 1, 2020, as reported by Dahe newspaper from Henan Province. The Duyun government also published a press release on the incident.
Google Earth indicates that at least one video included in the NTD article is an edited version of the news video by Dahe, and it is authentic. However, the report does not mention the cause of the fire.
Similar rumors that the Chinese government is setting fire to grain stocks have circulated several times in the past in early summer; for example, in 2013 and 2018 (these rumors were debunked by Sina Finance).
Annie Lab could not independently confirm whether such claims are true or false.
[Updated on July 15] After Annie Lab published this report on July 13, NTD took down the misleading image and video. The article now features another image, a screenshot of a news video showing a fire at Heilongjiang’s Lindian National Grain Storage in 2013.
According to local media, the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit. At the time the National Grain Stock Company in Heilongjiang stated there was neither a grain shortage nor an inspection from Beijing.