Satirical video misleadingly shared as genuine Covid-19 advice from Chinese official

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A satirical video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in social media posts that misleadingly claim it shows a Chinese official at a press conference suggesting body tattoos can help fight against Covid-19. But the creator of the video told AFP that it was only a performance made for "fun".

"Jia Dakong, a team leader for China's epidemic prevention and control, suggested that you can confuse the coronavirus by tattooing some muscle lines," reads this claim in simplified Chinese posted on Twitter on January 16, 2023.

The tweet was shared alongside an 11-second video that shows an official named "Jia Dakong" speaking at what appears to be a press conference.

He can be heard saying: "Can use tattoos, tattoo some muscle lines, in order to confuse the coronavirus."

There is also simplified Chinese text overlaid on the video that appears to give his name and title: "Leader of the one-person team for epidemic prevention and control / Jia Dakong".

The video has been viewed more than 231,000 times.

China operates the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate its anti-epidemic measures, but AFP found no organisations named "China's epidemic prevention and control".

Screenshot of the misleading tweet, taken on January 19, 2023.

The same video was shared on Twitter here and here, on Douyin here and here, as well as on US social media site Gettr here and here.

Comments on the posts indicated that some users believed the video was genuine.

"Chinese people are having tough life because leaders are stupid," one user wrote.

Another said: "How can such a person become a team leader? So creepy!"

But the claim is misleading.

'Performance for fun'

A keyword search on Douyin found this account, featuring a photo of the "official" seen in the misleading videos as its profile image.

While the video seen in the misleading posts cannot be found on the account, there are multiple videos of the same person in a similar setting giving illogical health advice, such as "holding breath can stop coughing" and "eating peach cans will worsen coughing".

The account's description reads in part: "Talking nonsense in a serious way / Staged performance, don't take them for real".

Below is a comparison of the video shared in the misleading posts (left) and one of the videos published on the Douyin account (right):

Comparison of the video shared in the misleading posts (left) and one of the video published on the Douyin account (right)

The account holder who identified himself as "Jia Zhuanjia" said he created the video "only for fun" but removed it since the video was restricted by the platform.

"Douyin made the video visible only to my followers. Even my account has also become visible only to my followers," the user told AFP on January 20. "I later deleted the video, as someone said to me that my account will only become visible again [to everyone] if I delete these restricted videos."

Separately, the user published a video on January 19 in which he apologised that his "performance" in previous videos was "too real" and misled some users.

As of January 20, AFP found no official reports that Chinese officials have recommended tattoos to combat Covid-19.