A Feb. 24 tweet featuring a university inauguration ceremony video in China claims 15 HIV-positive students were admitted under a special program in response to President Xi Jinping’s call to foster Sino-African friendship.
The name of the university was masked from the clip and a man could be heard seemingly speaking to a microphone saying the admission was made to “advance human rights protection of HIV/AIDS patients.”
In the footage, the man asked students to “get along with each other” and told off those who were heard “booing” him over the announcement.
The tweet has nearly 1,000 engagements. A similar claim and the same video were also posted on Douyin on Feb. 25, which was shared over 430,000 times.
Annie Lab looked into the claim and found that the video has nothing to do with people with HIV. It has been manipulated with an added audio track.
About 10 seconds into the Twitter video, we can spot the letters “ou” being part of the university’s English name printed on the backdrop.
Searching Chinese university names with the “ou” combination, such as Fuzhou University and Shantou University, we landed on a similar photo that shows Lanzhou University’s 2021 opening ceremony for postgraduate students on its official website.
We then found the original video featuring a speech given by the university’s vice-chancellor Yan Chunhua during the ceremony. It was uploaded to Bilibili in September 2021.
Throughout his 10-minute speech, Yan was heard greeting new students, encouraging them to pursue knowledge and care for society. There was no mention of HIV/AIDS or Africa.
We could not locate the origin of the added audio track, but it is likely related to the 2017 news stories about 15 HIV-positive students from a charity school in Shanxi province who earned university admission rights after passing the national examination, as reported by China Youth Daily and the Radio and Television of Shanghai.
Guo Xiaoping, the headmaster of the Red Ribbon School in Linfen, Shanxi province, told the China Youth Daily at the time that the students were mostly orphans and their identities would not be disclosed.
Peng Liyuan, the then Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS of the World Health Organization and Xi’s wife, reportedly visited the school in 2011 and has kept a close connection with the school.
Since then, similar claims have circulated on Chinese social media every once in a while.
On Weibo, for example, a post claiming that 12 students with HIV/AIDS were admitted to an unknown university was shared in 2018.
A Facebook user who claimed to be a headmaster of a school wrote in 2021 that the institution “enrolled 15 students with HIV” that year to “prevent students from dating.”