26 September 2023

Misleading: Media’s Guangzhou protest coverage includes old video from 2017

BBC, Al Jazeera and other news organizations included five-year-old footage from Qingyuan that has nothing to do with the recent protests in Guangzhou.


A video showing a group of protesters turning over a police vehicle was widely shared on Twitter with a claim that it is a scene from the latest protest against China’s strict COVID-19 policy and lockdowns in Guangzhou. Some users said the incident took place in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district.

This clip was used in news reports by many media organizations, including BBC News, BBC Serbian, Guardian, Sky News, The Sun, The Times, Hindustan TimesDaily Beast, news.com.au, ABC Australia and Al Jazeera, as well as Hong Kong’s Headline Daily, Oriental Daily and Hong Kong Free Press.

BBC’s Beijing correspondent Stephen McDonell also shared the video on Twitter and wrote, “at one point, workers who broke out of a #Covid lockdown in #Guangzhou turned over a police vehicle. Riot teams have been sent in.”

However, this particular footage does not show the protest in Guangzhou. This video was taken in 2017 during a protest against a waste incinerator plant in Qingyuan, Guangdong.

Annie Lab found an identical video posted on May 10, 2017, on Twitter. The user wrote the incident took place at 8:50 p.m. on May 9, 2017.

Media reports on Nov. 15, 2022 (left) and a video posted on Twitter on May 10, 2017 (right).

We then gathered photos and videos about the 2017 Qingyuan protest and found many images taken from different angles used by Hong Kong media outlets such as Hong Kong Free Press, Oriental Daily and Now TV, as well as a YouTube video.

They are all posted in May 2017, featuring the same scene of protesters toppling a police car.

Based on these images, Annie Lab identified the exact location of the incident with Baidu Maps’ street view.

It happened near the Hongwei Hardware store and an auto parts shop, Guoji Navigation, located on Songgang Road in Qingcheng District, Qingyuan.

Another street view of the same street

According to news reports by Hong Kong local media such as i-Cable News, Now TV and Hong Kong Free Press in 2017, the clash between the police and the public happened when thousands of people took to the street to oppose the government’s proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant in a residential area.

Now TV reported that “some people overturned police cars,” and a large number of public security and riot police arrived at the scene to disperse the villagers with tear gas. It also said many people were arrested at the time.

A government press release in May 2017 said, “since May 1, 2017, some residents have been gathering and protesting in Feilaixia Town and downtown Qingyuan for days over concerns that the project would pollute their living environment and the Beijiang River.”

The governmental document also mentioned that some people had gathered downtown to chant slogans, causing traffic jams, especially in the evenings of May 7, 8 and 9.

This week, numerous videos purportedly related to the Kangle Village in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district have spread on social media, showing clashes between residents and medical workers.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, strict restrictions have been imposed in several districts in Guangzhou since October.

Haizhu District’s Kangle Village, the location mentioned by multiple social media posts, is one of the famous “urban villages,” a hub for migrant textile workers with more than 50,000 from Hubei Province.

[Note on update: We have added more news outlets that used the irrelevant video in their coverage since the story was first published].