The Claim and Our Verdict
- 1. The first photo shows the China Southern Airlines’ logo on the plane’s exterior paint design, which means that it belongs to China Southern Airlines. However, photos taken at the crash site of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 show that the plane is marked with the logo of China Eastern Airlines on its wreckage.
- 2. The second photo shows the scene of a mountain fire caused by an ancestor worship event in Fujian on March 20, 2022. The relevant images have been circulating in WeChat groups on the day of the fire, one day before the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735.
- The third photo of the cabin crew has been circulating on the internet since at least 2008.
- Our verdict: The three photos shared in connection with the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 are NOT related to the incident.
On March 21, 2022, China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed in Wuzhou City of Guangxi on its way from Kunming of Yunnan province to Guangzhou of Guangdong province. On April 20, 2022, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) released a preliminary investigation report on the incident: “The plane disintegrated after hitting the ground, and all 123 passengers and 9 crew members on board were killed.”
An internet user sent a WhatsApp message to HKBU Fact Check, requesting for verifying the authenticity of the three photos. The first photo shows flight crew members boarding a plane, with a Chinese caption translated as, “China Eastern MU5735.” The second photo shows a forest fire, with a Chinese caption translated as, “An accident occurred in Guangxi on China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 carrying 133 people and caused a wildfire.” The third photo is a group photo of the crew, and the Chinese caption reads, “MU5735 flight attendants.”
Similar information has been circulating on Facebook. For example, two videos were published March 23, 2022, with a caption “The image of the last moment of China Eastern flight MU5735.” Another video was published March 21, 2022, and the description was, “Video of the burning wreckage at the site of the China Eastern plane crash.”
The first photo shows that the tail of the plane is painted with the China Southern Airlines logo. Therefore, it is not a China Eastern Airlines plane. According to the official websites of China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, the logos of the two airlines are significantly different.
On March 22, 2022, the Weibo account “China News Video,” a subsidiary of the China News Service released a video related to the rescue at the plane crash site. The video showed that the wreckage of the plane was painted with the China Eastern Airlines logo.
A video, with scenes identical to that in the second photo, was published March 21, 2022, on Weibo, by a Chinese media organization Modern Express Post. The simplified Chinese-language caption translates as: “Many netizens have pointed out that this video, in fact, shows a fire caused by ancestor worship in Fujian on March 20. The accent of the people in the video does not match the one of Wuzhou, Guangxi. At 6 pm on March 21, a reporter from @Modern Express Post called the People’s Government of Guanzhuang Shezu Township, Shanghang County, Longyan City, Fujian Province. The staff told the reporter that the video circulating on the internet came to their attention. It showed a mountain fire in a local village caused by ancestor worship on March 20, not the crash site. The information circulating online is not true.”
The claim has also been debunked by AFP Fact Check. An AFP reporter interviewed a man from a village near the fire scene. The man provided a screenshot of the video shared in a local WeChat group on March 20, 2022. This date was earlier than the time when China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed (March 21, 2022). Therefore, the video cannot be the last image of the crashed plane.
As for the third photo of the crew members, HKBU Fact Check has searched and found that the Chinese media organization E-North NetNews published an article on April 25, 2008, titled “Sichuan Airlines introduces a new collection of flight attendant uniforms. The old design has been imitated by a hot pot restaurant for its staff uniform.” The source of the article is the Sichuan newspaper Huaxi Metropolitan Daily. The article includes a photo of the same crew members as in the third photo. The Chinese-language article translates as: “In order to highlight the unique, professional qualities of its flight attendants, Sichuan Airlines uses ‘rose red’ in its new collection of flight attendant uniforms, which is relatively rare in the uniforms of the aviation industry. There are one set of ‘rose red’ and one set of ‘sapphire blue’ uniforms for each season. Therefore, the picture has circulated on the internet since at least 2008 and is not related to the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 on March 21, 2022.
To sum up, all the three photos were used with false contextual information. None of them is related to the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 on March 21, 2022.
The three photos shared in connection with the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 are unrelated to the incident.
- Facebook, post, March 23, 2022.
- Facebook, post, March 21, 2022.
- China Southern Airlines.
- China Eastern Airlines.
- Weibo, post, March 22, 2022.
- Weibo, post, March 21, 2022.
- AFP Fact Check, “Video of hillside fire misrepresented online as ‘China Eastern Airlines plane crash site,” March 24, 2022.
- E-North Netnews, “Sichuan Airlines introduces a new collection of flight attendant uniforms. The old design has been copied by a hot pot restaurant for its staff uniform,” April 25, 2008.