Teachers and students at a primary school in smog-ridden Chengdu, southwest China, are said to have been told not to wear face masks in class and instead put their faith in the government’s pollution-solving capabilities, according to a report trending on social media.
A screenshot of the notice has caused a stir on the internet after being spread online on Monday, prompting the school to issue a denial on Tuesday.
According to the screenshot, the notice was sent by a teacher named Zeng at an elementary school affiliated to Jiaxiang Foreign Languages School in the city. It appeared on a 74-people chat room for “Jiaxiang Grade Two Class Two” on WeChat, the widely used instant messaging app in China.
“Don’t spread any rumors about the recent air pollution or participate in any illegal protests. Have faith in the government’s capacity to deal with the smog problem,” it reads. “Teachers and students should not wear masks in the class and the headteachers of each class must report the situation to the school supervisor every afternoon from 3.30 to 4.”
The notice comes after a group of artists wearing respirators staged a sit-down protest against the smog in the city center on Sunday evening and were taken in for questioning by the police.
“We do have a teacher called Zeng in the class, but Zeng never sent out messages like that,” said Ms Yan from the office of the elementary school of the Jiaxiang Education Group on Tuesday. “It is too easy to counterfeit a WeChat screen grab like that,” she added.
School principal Lei Jiemin also denied to Sohu News that the school was enforcing a ban on students wearing masks
Yan added that the school was seeking legal advice to protect its reputation.
Meanwhile, the closing message on screenshot which says “As long as our heart is filled with sunshine and oxygen, the smog will fade away,” has become a hit on the internet among those cynical about government efforts to clean up the environment.
The Chengdu real-time Air Quality Index Chengdu rose above 180 on Tuesday morning, a level considered “unhealthy,” according to the United States Environment Protection Agency standard.