‘Cremated alive’: Truth about viral video
A POPULAR viral video in which a Wuhan woman claims she witnessed critically ill coronavirus patients being cremated alive is "false information", fact checkers say.
In the video circulating on social media this week, the woman - filmed sitting in the back of a car apparently having returned from hospital - described how she witnessed patients in the room next door being sealed up in body bags.
"He's not dead," she said in the video, according to subtitles by New York-based NTD TV, which stressed it "could not be independently verified".
"He's still moving. His hands and feet were still moving when they covered his head. They then tied up his hands and feet and wrapped him in a black plastic body bag and zipped it up."
Earlier this month, China banned burials and funerals, ordering that all fatalities be cremated "close by and immediately" to prevent the spread of the virus.
The move fuelled accusations authorities were trying to cover up the true number of deaths by literally burning the evidence. Claims that China has been secretly cremating bodies had already been circulating online for weeks.
But the latest video - which fact-checking organisation PolitiFact has rated as "false" - adds a gruesome new twist to the popular conspiracy theory, racking up hundreds of thousands of views across various platforms.
The woman in the video, speaking in a "Wuhan dialect", according to NTD TV, goes on to say that the man in his 70s was wrapped in four body bags and placed in a "boxlike device" before being taken away.
"So basically they're sending people away for cremation when they're alive?" the driver in the video asks. She replies, "What can be done? They're afraid that the virus inside his body will spread."
She adds she saw this happen to several patients. After they are taken away, doctors tell their relatives that their loved ones have passed away, she allegedly claims. The driver says: "This is so cruel, but the thing is, the man is alive, he needs to be saved."
The woman says: "How can he be saved? Using what? There are no drugs available, only oxygen. I saw these cases myself while in the hospital. It strikes fear into my heart. I want to cry, it's terrifying."
According to PolitiFact, it was first uploaded to YouTube on February 24 by exiled Chinese billionaire and political activist Guo Wengui. It included a watermark for Wengui's media company G News, which also employs former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Other prominent anti-China sources then amplified the video.
It was viewed nearly 300,000 times after being shared on Twitter by Jennifer Zeng, a Falun Gong human rights activist with more than 80,000 followers. Ms Zeng posts a large number of clips purportedly from China that are very difficult to independently corroborate.
NTD TV's news package featuring the video was viewed nearly 300,000 times on YouTube. The organisation, which was also founded by Falun Gong practitioners and is critical of the Chinese government, was caught out last month after sharing a misleading video of a doctor collapsing in an operating theatre.
Another version of the video was uploaded to Facebook by a page called China Declassified - the version "fact checked" by PolitiFact. "We could find no other evidence that Chinese officials are cremating coronavirus victims alive," PolitiFact's Daniel Funke wrote.
"And to be clear, at no point does the video offer any first-hand evidence. We reached out to G News for the source of Wengui's video, but we haven't heard back. The Facebook post is inaccurate. We rate it False."
As a result, the China Declassified post has been slapped with "false information" warning label by Facebook. The social media giant earlier this week vowed to ramp up its crackdown on fake news about coronavirus.
The video joins the flood of disturbing footage from inside China allegedly showing the true scale of the epidemic, and of the Communist regime's brutal crackdown efforts.
Mistrust of the Chinese government's official figures, pervasive online censorship and lack of information have allowed such videos - many of which turn out to be misleading or outright fake - to quickly go viral.
The COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, Hubei province in December and has now killed more than 2800 people and infected more than 82,000 others, mainly in China although with cases rapidly spreading globally.