Misleading: Kids spacesuit is for celebrating China’s space mission, not for preventing COVID-19

China successfully launched its Shenzhou-12 and 13 spacecraft in 2021. Many children wore spacesuit costumes at school’s sporting events that year.

A series of photos included in a tweet on Oct. 26 implied that children in China are wearing full-body protection gear in schools as part of the country’s extreme COVID-19 prevention measures.

The collage of four photos has two pictures showing children covered in spacesuit-like gear from head to toe in a classroom, with some holding the Chinese national flag.

The third image features a string of quotes from a medical doctor, supposedly explaining how the kid’s spacesuit prevents COVID-19 infection.

The last image is an advertising-like graphic, seemingly from a manufacturer, that says there is “no need to put on a mask” when one wears this protective gear. The tweet has 124 retweets, 24 quote tweets, and 778 likes as of this writing.

Some of these images have also been shared widely with different claims, all of which associated the photos with the pandemic (for example, this and this), some even in different languages.

Comments on those posts indicate many users believed children in China wear this type of personal protective equipment and criticized the country’s zero-COVID policy and its excessiveness.

However, these photos are used out of context. They have nothing to do with the pandemic. Many children wore the spacesuit costume for their schools’ sporting events in 2021 when China successfully launched its Shenzhou-12 and 13 spacecraft.

The arm badge found on every spacesuit has the name of the spacecraft “SHEN ZHOU”

Shenzhou-12 and Shenzhou-13 were launched on June 17 and Oct. 13, 2021, respectively.

Shenzhou-12 was China’s first manned space mission in five years, and Shenzhou-13 marked the longest-ever crewed mission for space station construction.

Through keyword search, Annie Lab found several videos (this, this and this) about Chinese primary school students celebrating the launch of spacecraft by wearing spacesuit costumes at sporting events.

Screenshots of students wearing spacesuit costumes in various sporting events in Shandong, Yunnan and Jiangxi.

One of the photos in the tweet in question shows the cover page of a Primary One Chinese textbook. With this information, we tried to determine where exactly these photos were taken.

The Primary One Chinese language textbook is published by the People’s Education Press

Our investigation led to a Douyin video showing students at Ningbo Jiangdong Experimental Primary School (previously called Siyanqi Primary School) who wore identical-looking spacesuits for the school’s sports meet in November 2021.

In our analysis, the costume in the pictures and the ones worn by the students at this school match each other. We reached out to the school, and a teacher who works there, but hasn’t gotten any reply yet.

The costume in the picture (left) matches the one worn by students at Ningbo Jiangdong Experimental Primary School in the video (right).

We also looked into the presumed quotes from a doctor in another graphic and found a report by Liaoning TV on Feb. 18, 2020, featuring the same doctor (video shown below).

His name is Dr. Jia Jia from the Department of Intensive Care Medicine at the First Hospital of China Medical University.

In the news report, he introduced a kind of protective gear used in Wuhan when the COVID-19 outbreak was severe.

He said that its air delivery system would purify the air and prevent doctors from inhaling the virus.

Dr. Jia Jia discussed specialized clothing for medical staff, not children’s spacesuit costumes.
Screenshot of the protective clothing Dr. Jia Jia mentioned in the interview.