6 December 2023

Misleading: Liaison Office photo was taken months before Jiang Zemin’s death

The viral photo is a screen capture of a TV news report in April. Many people in Hong Kong also lined up and offered flowers to the deceased former Chinese president outside the Liaison Office on Dec. 1.

Several social media posts on Facebook and Twitter (here, here, here and here) claimed on Dec. 1 that people in Hong Kong were not paying any tribute to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin who passed away on Nov. 30 at the age of 96.

All of these posts had an image juxtaposing two photos — one showing numerous bouquets of flowers placed outside the British Embassy after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, while the other featuring one person standing outside the Liaison Office, the agency that represents the Chinese government in the city, with no flowers in sight at all.

The comparison was first posted by a Hong Kong social media influencer, kaminghk, which has 110,000 followers. The author wrote in Chinese that while the crowd had to wait up to three hours to pay the last respect to Queen Elizabeth II, “there was one staff member outside the Hong Kong Liaison Office in a hurry to get to the office” after Jiang Zemin’s death.

Together with similar posts, the claim has been shared over a thousand times and received thousands of reactions.

The claim is false, however, and the image is misleadingly used. The Liaison Office photo is a screen capture of a video news report by Now TV on April 5.

Annie Lab found the exact scene appears 35 seconds into the broadcast report about a meeting to discuss the election of Hong Kong’s new chief executive then.

Screenshot of the video report from Now TV aired on April 5.

The British Embassy photo was taken in September and used in this blog post showing the flower offerings to the deceased Queen.

According to media reports and their news photos and videos (such as this one from the Hong Kong Free Press), many Hong Kongers lined up outside the Liaison Office on Dec. 1 to offer flowers and pay tribute to Jiang.

Wen Wei Po, a state-backed local newspaper controlled by the Liaison Office, included pictures showing citizens in long queues. It said around 7,000 people came out to pay their tribute.

According to AFP correspondent Xinqi Su, they were allowed to gather there in the afternoon, although mourners were initially told to leave in the morning.

A photo taken by Wen Wei Po shows a long queue moving towards the Liaison Office.

A video report by Hong Kong Free Press also shows the crowd and included interviews with some mourners (embedded below).

The influencer who first made the comparison later added that people started showing up outside the Liaison Office, but the update received far fewer reactions.

Jiang served as general secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, taking over the leadership just after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Many observers credit him for steering a period of economic growth in China.

He was also the first Chinese top official to visit Hong Kong and led the transition of Hong Kong returning to China in 1997.