26 September 2023

Misleading: This image does not show the brain hemorrhage of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester

While the image is not fabricated, it has been on a radiology website called Radiopaedia since 2008.
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This image is being circulated on the internet as a CT brain scan of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester suffering a brain hemorrhage after being beaten on the head by a police baton.

This image is misleading.

While the image is not fabricated, it has been on a radiology website called Radiopaedia since 2008, 11 years before the protests in Hong Kong began. It shows a CT scan of a human brain, with the lower right part of the brain in a lighter tint.

The image was published on Oct. 8, 2019, as a message on public Telegram channel @antiextraditionverifiednews (archived). The channel has more than 186,000 members and the Telegram message has been viewed more than 122,000 times.

The Telegram message, written in traditional Chinese, makes clear that the image was for “illustration” and produced by a medical personnel “with reference to the patient’s injury,” although the image has been flipped horizontally, as compared to the original.

The protester was reported to have an injury on the left side of the brain. CT images are conventionally oriented as if looking in a mirror, according to learningneuroradiology.com, a website created by a neuroradiology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

It means the left side of the brain should appear on the right side of the image. The orange circle did not exist in the original on Radiopaedia.

The flipped image was also re-posted on Instagram by a user called antielabhk (archived), who has more than 104,000 followers, with a caption using similar language. The Instagram post, which has more than 18,000 likes, also made clear that the image was an “illustration.”

South China Morning Post published the image on their website (archived), claiming that it is an “X-ray image for the 27-year-old protester arrested during clashes with police on Monday.”

The SCMP article did not mention that the image was made to only illustrate the brain hemorrhage.

SCMP has since removed the misleading image.

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Screenshot of the article published by SCMP with the misleading image and caption.

The online archive Wayback Machine shows that the original image has been on Radiopaedia, a collaborative radiology encyclopedia, since Aug. 26, 2008.

The image page shows the CT scan was uploaded by Dr. Sandeep Bhuta, a neuroradiologist based in Gold Coast, Australia.

Annie Lab only examines if the CT scan image belongs to a protester reported to have been injured in the Hong Kong protests. Local news reports on a 27-year-old protester being assaulted rely solely on anonymous sources. Annie Lab is unable to independently verify whether the injury occurred or whether the injury sustained caused a brain hemorrhage.

Clarification (Oct. 23, 2019): The fact check has been edited to clarify that it only checks whether the CT scan image belongs to a protester in Hong Kong. It has no bearing on whether the assault of the protester was false.

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