The Claim and Our Verdict
The claim: A video of a ship sailing claims to show China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier, which has been decommissioned ahead of schedule and carries passengers on the Pearl River in south China’s Guangdong province.
Fact-checking: The ship shown in the video is actually the inland river cruise Huaxia Life Insurance, which was built based on the design of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. The ship provides the Pearl River night touring service. It is not the Liaoning aircraft carrier, as purported in the claim.
Our verdict: The video shows a river cruise in Guangzhou, not the Liaoning aircraft carrier.
A video of a ship sailing was shared July 9, 2022, on Facebook, with the caption “The CCP’s deficit is too large. They do not have enough funding to maintain an aircraft carrier. The Liaoning has been decommissioned ahead of schedule and now carries passengers across the Pearl River in Guangdong province at 10 yuan a ticket. Few ordinary people can afford it.”
According to the Chinese government website, the Liaoning is China’s first aircraft carrier. The construction and sea trials were completed Sept. 25, 2012. The ship was delivered to the Chinese navy from Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company.
As of the publication of this report, the Facebook post had been shared nine times, and had received 18 comments as well as 98 likes or reactions.
A reverse image search was conducted. A video published July 10, 2022 on Weibo, identical to the Facebook video, was found. Comments below the Weibo post show that some social media users claim the ship is the river cruise Huaxia Life Insurance, which offers the Pearl River night touring service.
According to the official website of the Pearl River night tour, it is operated by a company in Guangzhou which is mainly engaged in sightseeing and tourist reception services. According to the information page of the Huaxia Life Insurance river cruise, it is constructed based on the design of the Liaoning aircraft carrier. The lighting color and the design of the window lines on the lower deck of the river cruise are very similar to those of the ship in the Facebook video.
Further keyword searches were conducted. It is found that a travel company called Xunmeng Tianxia Travel (literally meaning “dream world travel” in Chinese) sells online tickets for the river cruise. Referring to the company’s service introduction page, several photos of the Huaxia Life Insurance ship have been published. After comparison, the white Arabic number “16” logo and the gray aircraft model on the deck of the Huaxia Life Insurance ship correspond to those of the vessel in the Facebook video.
HKBU Fact Check sent an inquiry to a customer service staff of Pearl River night tour. The staff has confirmed that the ship in the Facebook video is the Huaxia Life Insurance river cruise.
HKBU FactCheck has also compared the photos of the Huaxia Life Insurance ship and the Liaoning, which have been published by multiple sources. According to the photos published by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the control tower of the Liaoning looks completely different from that of the Huaxia Life Insurance ship in the Facebook video. In addition, in the service introduction page of the Xunmeng Tianxia Travel company, the photo shows that there are two rows of cabin windows on the side of the Huaxia Life Insurance ship. However, in the photos of the Liaoning released by China’s Ministry of National Defense, there are no such windows. By comparing the above details, it is confirmed that the Huaxia Life Insurance river cruise and the Liaoning are not the same vessel.
To sum up, the video shows the Huaxia Life Insurance ship offering Pearl River night tour in Guangzhou. It is an inland river cruise constructed based on the design of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
The video shows a river cruise in Guangzhou, not the Liaoning aircraft carrier.
- Facebook, post, July 9, 2022.
- The Chinese government website, “China’s first aircraft carrier delivered to the Chinese Navy,” Sept. 25, 2012.
- Weibo, post, July 10, 2022.
- Pearl River night tour.
- Pearl River night tour, The river cruise ship Huaxia Life Insurance.
- Youzan, Tickets for Pearl River night tour (by Huaxia Life Insurance ship).
- South China Morning Post, “China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier returns home from a month of training,” May 1, 2020.
- China’s Ministry of National Defense, “Liaoning fleet completes actual combat training,” Dec. 30, 2021.