False: Image of US Army general receiving a Huawei phone from a Chinese general is manipulated
A tweet on Sept. 20 claimed U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley has received a Huawei mobile phone from his counterpart in China. The post featured an image that purportedly shows the formal occasion when Milley was given the gift.
The tweet gained 165 likes, 87 retweeted, and 25 comments as of this writing.
However, the image is digitally manipulated. It is a composite of multiple pictures.
Annie Lab found that the background, the person on the left, the label on the gift box, and the person on the right all come from different photos. Our video below shows how the image in question is composed of elements of unrelated pictures.
The person on the left
Image search led to this photo on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff website, which shows a meeting between Milley and Switzerland Chief of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Thomas Süssli on Dec. 18, 2019.
The caption says Milley and Süssli exchanged views on mutual security interests between the two countries in the meeting.
In the photo, Süssli is shaking hands with Milley while holding what appears to be a gift box in the other hand. Milley in this photo is identical to the Twitter image in question.
The person on the right
In the doctored image, Süssli’s upper body is replaced with that of Gen. Zhang Yang, a former head of China’s Central Military Commission’s political work department, who made headlines when he committed suicide in 2017.
Zhang’s photos appeared in many news reports at that time including the South China Morning Post and the New York Times, as seen below.
Zhang’s face, service uniform, and other features like insignia and military ribbons in the news photo is identical to that of the man standing on the right in the manipulated image.
The doctored image shows U.S. and Chinese national flags in the background. The flags are nearly identical to the ones seen in similar looking file photos taken in June 2019 during the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.
This photo taken by Abaca Press, for example, appears nearly identical to the flags in the manipulated image. The news photo used in this Xinhua article credited to People’s Daily is another photo taken at the same time at the same place (below).
The gift box that Süssli is holding in the original photo is replaced in the doctored version with a plain box with no decoration except for what looks like the Huawei logo, which is easily identifiable.
The American and Swiss flags in the original photo are altered to show the U.S. and Chinese flags (in purple circles). The face and uniform of Thomas Süssli is changed to Zhang Yang’s face and his uniform (in yellow). The wrapped gift box is made to look like a Huawei product box (in light blue).