Misleading: This bird was not killed by Hong Kong police tear gas

While the photo was not fabricated, it was taken in 2010 in the town of Berlin, Connecticut, U.S.
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A photo of a bird with its eyes closed has been shared hundreds of times in multiple posts on Twitter, with captions claiming that the bird was killed by Hong Kong police tear gas.

This claim is misleading.

While the photo was not fabricated, it was taken by Polish American artist Vanessa Kowalski in the town of Berlin, Connecticut, U.S., in 2010, years before the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests began.

The Twitter posts making the claim (herehere and here) were published on Nov. 15 and 16, after tear gas was fired at The Chinese University of Hong Kong during a week of protest.

A reverse image search returns a Pinterest pin with the photo.

The pin has a caption saying the photo was featured in the May 2010 issue of Afield, an online art magazine. In the magazine, the photo was part of a collection by Kowalski.

In an email to Annie Lab, Kowalski confirmed that she took the photo in her hometown, Berlin, Connecticut, U.S.

The photo’s metadata shows it was taken on March 13, 2010, which Kowalski said was correct.

Claims of police tear gas killing animals began in the week of Nov. 11, when Hong Kong police deployed tear gas to disperse protesters in the suburban Chinese University of Hong Kong campus.

Images of dead birds in the university began circulating online with claims the birds died from police tear gas.

Annie Lab cannot independently verify whether those birds died, and if so, whether tear gas caused their deaths.

[Update on Nov. 21, 2019] Hong Kong Bird Watching Society issued a statement over the reported cases of dead birds on its Facebook page.

It says “the cause of death has not been established with any certainty.” The organization would like to “remain scientific” rather than “hurriedly reaching conclusions.”

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