26 September 2023
Fact checkMisleading

Misleading: Graduation video is manipulated. It does not show a speech at Peking University

The widely popular video combines footage of a graduation ceremony at Macau University in English and an unrelated audio track in Mandarin Chinese taken from a selfie-style video.

A Weibo post on Sept. 25 claimed a student at Peking University discussed how her mother skillfully coaxed her into studying and got her into the prestigious university in a graduation speech. It said the student asked other mothers to “listen carefully and take notes.”

The post, which received sizable reactions last month, included a video clip showing a female student giving the said speech in what appears to be a graduation ceremony.

Annie Lab discovered that this is not the first time the video in question became popular on the internet. In July, for example, a Douyin user, who claims to be a teacher, shared it and received 142,000 likes and 35,000 saves (bookmarks) at the time of writing.

Many other accounts and users on Weibo and Douyin have also shared the same clip, making it constantly trending on China’s social media platforms.

However, this video has been manipulated. It is a composite of a graduation speech at the University of Macau in English and another unrelated audio track in Mandarin Chinese.

The original video footage in English was uploaded to YouTube on June 24, 2021, by the University of Macau.

In the clip, a representative of the undergraduate program, Wan Yingjia, gave a speech, expressing her gratitude for the opportunities provided by the university’s faculties and residential colleges, which was also summarized in the university’s press release published.

Annie Lab analyzed the two clips and found that the manipulated version is composed of 10 different parts of the speech spliced together.

The name of the university has been digitally covered up in the manipulated version.

Through keyword search, we found the audio track in Chinese was taken from a Douyin video posted on May 9.

This clip was posted by an account called “北大花花老師” (PKU Teacher Huahua) and shows a selfie video of a woman speaking to the camera about her mother’s strategy to make her study.

In the user profile, she says she has studied at Renmin University and is a postgraduate student at Peking University. She has also posted the same video on Xigua Video and Kuaishou, two popular video-sharing platforms in China.

At the end of last year, she also uploaded a similar video containing more or less identical information about her study. Annie Lab found that she sells self-study materials online through Douyin and other platforms.

We could not independently verify her identity and could not determine whether or not the woman in the video has actually entered or studied at either university, however.

Douyin shows that more than dozens of users have generated different clips with the same audio track.

In the verification process, Annie Lab discovered dozens of other social media accounts that also took the audio track from PKU Teacher Huahua and added it to unrelated videos or images of people giving a speech. Some even created a male voiceover with the same content.

Peking University was founded in 1898. It is often regarded as one of the most difficult universities to be admitted to in China. The college entrance exam Gaokao is known for its cutthroat competition. Reports say students and parents are under tremendous pressure.

The online education industry surrounding Gaokao, as well as private tutoring, has been controversial in China in recent years.