26 September 2023

Misleading: Protest in Chongqing happened last year over parking fees, not last month over social restrictions

The viral video was filmed in July 2021. The protest broke out in one of the Evergrande residential complexes in the city, according to news reports.

In mid-September, a series of video clips were posted by multiple Twitter accounts that showed a huge crowd shouting, “放人” (“let people go” in Chinese) and surrounding about a dozen cars, including what appears to be police vehicles.

Some users claimed (for example, here and here) that the videos show a protest in Chongqing against social controls by the authority and suggested there is censorship (“no news coverage”) because of the upcoming Communist Party Congress slated in October.

Another user claimed the videos show a protest against Evergrande Group, a real estate empire in China that triggered a property debt crisis last year. Together, these tweets have over 1,700 likes and over 700 shares at the time of writing.

However, these claims are all misleading. The mass protest shown in those videos actually took place more than a year ago over a parking fee dispute.

Through a keyword search using the name of the Evergrande’s residential complex in the city mentioned in the tweets, “恒大金碧天下” (“Jinbi World”), Annie Lab found another video featuring the same protest scenes posted on July 15, 2021.

Two videos posted a year apart show the same scene.

According to news reports by HK01, the Oriental Daily, and Radio Free Asia, residents of Jinbi World staged a protest on July 15, 2021, over a parking fee dispute, which escalated with police and some protesters clashing, as seen in the videos.

Annie Lab geolocated the area by using the word on a signboard that appeared in one of the videos, “生鲜” (fresh food).

On Baidu Maps we found a store called 新品生鲜 (new and fresh) in the vicinity of the protest site.

The store sign 新品生鲜 looks identical to the one in the video.

We also noticed that a shop next to the fresh food store had a distinctive red-and-white logo. The street view of the map revealed it is a convenience store called “美宜佳” (Meiyijia).

The fresh food store (marked in red) stands next to Meiyijia (yellow).

Annie Lab also found a record of a complaint submitted to the General Office of the Chongqing government about the decision by the property management to collect parking fees as well as the confusion over the parking space allotment in June 2021, about a month before the protest.