4 December 2023
Fact checkMisleading

Misleading: Photo in Malaysia was used to illustrate Swatch craze in Hong Kong

Hundreds of people indeed waited outside the stores across the city, but this particular photo shows a long queue at a shopping mall in Malaysia, not Hong Kong.

A Twitter user posted a photo on March 26 claiming it shows 200 people in Hong Kong queuing to buy a watch even though the city has strict regulations on group gathering numbers.

No police presence is seen in the photo and the tweet compares the image with the three pro-Ukraine protesters who were fined 5,000 Hong Kong dollars in the same week for allegedly violating the two-person limit.

The tweet has 315 likes, 23 quote tweets and 743 likes as of this writing.

On that day local media reported that hundreds of people waited for hours outside Swatch stores all over the city, expecting to buy one of the Omega x Swatch Bioceramic Moonwatch collections in a shopping frenzy.

However, this particular photo was not taken in Hong Kong and the police were indeed monitoring the crowd, according to news reports.

The shopping mall in the picture is Pavilion Kuala Lumpur in Bukit Bintang, a shopping district in Malaysia.

The street view image from the Google map shows the same person in a black shirt wearing a white mask. The brand sign “ARMANI/KL” and the prominent “A” on the building facade are also identical. KL is the shorthand for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

The Google Map street view image (right) shows some identical features to the building in the tweet (left).

Malaysian website Hype and Channel News Asia reported that these people were queuing up at night to buy watches from the Swatch store on level 4 in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

The MoonSwatch is the first collaboration between Swatch and Omega, the luxury watchmaker, which created an international craze recently.

Only selected Swatch stores in each country sell this new series. In Malaysia, the Swatch store in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur is the only selected store that sells the MoonSwatch series.

The Twitter user later wrote in the thread that the photo was taken from Dimsum Daily, a Hong Kong-based online media.

It looks like Dimsum Daily initially identified the place in the photo from Malaysia as “Ocean City” in the caption, giving the impression it was taken in the Ocean Centre at Harbor City in Tsim Sha Tsui.

But the online media later replaced it with other photos that were actually taken at the Swatch store located in the Ocean Centre.

According to a news report, the Hong Kong police were present at various locations including a shopping mall in Langham Place, Mongkok, where the officers were reportedly reminding people to keep a certain distance from each other.

Another news article says the police officers were dispatched to manage the crowds outside the Swatch store in Causeway Bay after some people were suspected to jump the queue.

The Hong Kong government prohibits group gatherings of more than two persons in public places as stated in the Cap.599G Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Gathering) Regulation.

However, some activities, such as queuing up for buses, are not defined as group gatherings.

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