Photos of Vietnamese girl who survived acid attack misrepresented as survivor of deadly fire in China

·3 min read

Two photos of a badly scarred girl have been shared hundreds of times on Twitter and Facebook, alongside a claim they show a survivor of a fatal fire in Karamay, a city in China's northwest region of Xinjiang, in 1994. But the claim is false; the photos actually show a girl who survived an acid attack in Vietnam.

Warning: distressing content

A photo collage — one picture shows a badly scarred girl and the other shows the same girl sitting on a woman's lap — was published in this Twitter post on December 23, 2021.

The tweet, which has been shared more than 380 times, reads in part: "Karamay fire survivor. This is the consequence if you obey to let the leaders go first."

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Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on December 24, 2021

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The collage was also published alongside a similar claim here on Twitter and here on Facebook.

The posts were all published in December, as Karamay marked the 27th anniversary of the fire.

The blaze -- which broke out at a student performance -- killed almost 300 children.

Chinese media outlets reported on the anniversary of the blaze, including in this 2010 report by Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly.

The phrase "let the leaders go first" refers to a report by China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Youth League, that the students involved in the fire were instructed to let government officials flee first.

The claim about the photos of the girl is false.

A reverse image search found the photos were published in this article published by the Rye and Battle Observer, a UK-based newspaper, on September 24, 2015.

The article is headlined: "Ten-year-old acid attack victim helped by Rye woman".

The sub-headline reads: "When Wendy Vu met Nhi – the victim of a life-changing acid attack when she was six – she knew she had to do something to help."

The first two paragraphs read: "Since that fateful meeting last year, Wendy has raised more than £3,000 for Nhi, who is blind in one eye and only has a small amount of vision in the other.

"Wendy, who runs Elegant Nails in Rye, met Nhi when travelling around Vietnam and was so moved by the girl she felt she had to do something about it."

Rye is a town in East Sussex county, England.

The first photo is captioned: "Nhi", while the second photo has a caption that reads: "Nhi with Wendy Vu".

Below are screenshot comparisons of the photos in the misleading post (L) and photos published by the Rye and Battle Observer (R):

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Screenshot comparisons of the photos in the misleading post (L) and photos published by the Rye and Battle Observer (R)

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A logo in Vietnamese can be seen in one of the photos published by the Rye and Battle Observer.

Further keyword search found the photo was published on the website of Ho Chi Minh-based charity group Trai Tim Dong Cam, known in English as "Sympathetic Hearts".

The caption of the photo reads: "Little Yen Nhi from Vinh Long, December 13, 2014".

Vinh Long is the name of a city and a province in southern Vietnam.

Below is a screenshot of the photo uploaded by Trai Tim Dong Cam:

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Screenshot of the girl's photo uploaded byTrai Tim Dong Cam

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This article was updated on December 29 to clarify a reference to China's Xinjiang region.
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