China is the only major economy that maintains a "zero Covid" policy. ( AFP / STR)

Old photo falsely linked to fatal China quarantine bus crash

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A graphic image showing dead bodies on a roadside was shared hundreds of times in Chinese-language posts that claim it was shot at the scene of a bus crash that killed 27 people on their way to a Covid-19 quarantine facility in China's southwestern Guizhou province. The image, however, was shared in a false context. It was taken from a report about a deadly traffic accident in Guizhou in 2003.

Warning: graphic images

The image -- which bears the watermark "CNR" -- was shared on Twitter on September 23.

"Young life, pointless death! I can't look at this! Clearly, the people who made the decision to transfer them to quarantine are their executioners! The guilty deserve to die ten thousand deaths," the simplified Chinese caption reads.

Text superimposed on the images goes on to state: "Please look at this, in order to go to quarantine in Guizhou, [they] were transported to a faraway mountainous area, and 27 lives were lost on the spot!"

The post was retweeted more than 500 times.


A screenshot, taken on September 30, 2022, of the false post.

The post surfaced after 27 people died when their bus crashed in southwest China en route to a quarantine facility on September 18, local authorities said, in one of the country’s deadliest road accidents this year.

The crash took place on a highway in rural Guizhou province when the vehicle carrying 47 people "flipped onto its side", Sandu county police said in a statement on social media.

Some people on social media used the accident to criticise China's unrelenting zero-Covid policy, which often saw entire housing compounds of thousands relocated to purpose-built quarantine facilities, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away, AFP reported.

An identical image was shared alongside a similar claim in Chinese on Twitter and Gettr.

But the image predates the bus crash by almost a decade.

Old Guizhou crash

A reverse search on Chinese site Baidu found the same image published in a news report credited to China National Radio (CNR) on July 21, 2003.

The report's headline states: "Three traffic accidents a day in Guizhou, 33 dead, shocking everyone."

"A major traffic accident occurred at around 3:00 p.m. on July 19 in Zhijin County, Bijie Prefecture, Guizhou Province: a bus full of passengers rolled over a 100-metre-deep ravine, killing 23 passengers and injuring 22 others," the article said.

"Standing on the roadside, corpses can be seen lying on the mountainside from afar. Dozens of rescuers are carrying injured people one by one."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in the false posts (left) and the CNR photo (right):


A screenshot comparison of the photo in the false post (left) and the Chinese National Radio's news report (right).

The crash was also reported by local news organisation Guizhou City News on July 21, 2003.