30 September 2023

False: Japan’s ex-PM Abe did not ‘answer a phone call’ in ambulance

Shinzo Abe collapsed shortly after he was shot and fell unconscious. The misleading social media posts in Chinese appear to stem from inaccurate translations of a local news report.


Several posts on the Chinese video-sharing platforms Douyin, Kuaishou, and Weibo recently claimed former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answered a phone call while he was being transported to hospital in an ambulance after he was shot in Nara on July 8.

They all said the source of information was Japan’s public broadcaster NHK. A Weibo user uploaded a screenshot of a supposed online news article from NHK.

A Weibo post included three paragraphs taken out of a supposed NHK article.

Altogether, these posts have over 5,460 likes as of this writing.

However, the claim is false. It appears the misinformation stems from an inaccurate translation of a genuine news report.

Through keyword search, Annie Lab found an archived version of the NHK’s breaking news report published at 12:08 p.m. on July 8.

The archived version of NHK’s breaking news report published at 12:08 p.m. on July 8 in local time contained the excerpt used in the misleading posts.

We can confirm that the excerpt in the Weibo post was taken from this article by NHK.

However, the article did not say Abe “answered a phone call.” The Japanese expression “呼びかけにも応じていた” in this context means he was “responsive” in a medical sense.

Annie Lab found that when using Google Translate, this Japanese expression is translated in Chinese as “响应了电话,” meaning “answered a phone call.”

The Japanese expression “responsive” was inaccurately translated in Chinese as “answered a phone call.”

In this article, NHK quoted a police source and said Abe was “conscious and responsive” initially, but later removed these three paragraphs.

The misleading Weibo post mistranslated an excerpt from the version published at 12:08 p.m.
It appears the misleading post relied on machine translation.

The same NHK news report also quoted the Nara Fire Department and said Abe appeared to be in a state of cardiac arrest soon after he was shot.

Later news reports made it clear that he was indeed experiencing cardiac arrest and unconscious even before he was carried in the ambulance.

A doctor who treated Abe before the emergency response unit arrived said in this interview that the former prime minister was unconscious and did not respond to any treatment.

The transcript of the emergency communication between the medical staff in the ambulance and the fire department headquarters was disclosed to the public this week and it confirms that Abe has never regained consciousness after the shot.

He was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m. local time on the same day.