4 December 2023

False: This Tiananmen Square video does not show China’s COVID-19 protests

The video was taken during the National Day celebration on Oct. 1, 2022. The audio track of chanting voices was added from an unrelated military training video shot in 2021 in Tianjin.

A video showing people gathering at Tiananmen Square in Beijing was posted on Twitter on Nov. 27, 2022, with a claim in Japanese that the young people were expressing their resistance and anger towards China’s zero-covid policy.

The tweet says the protest took place right after the deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western Xinjiang region, which killed 10 people in November last year.

The footage was dubbed with an audio clip featuring nationalistic chants in Mandarin that says, when translated to English:

“We are a generation of the red flag who is born in the spring breeze. The people are faithful and the country is strong. Wherever you look, it’s the land of China. The shiny five-stars remain our faith. We shall defend the prosperity of China with our youth. Defend China! Defend China! Defend China!”

(Original Chinese: 我們生在紅旗下,長在春風裏,人民有信仰,國家有力量,目光所至,皆為華夏,五星閃耀,皆為信仰,願以吾輩之青春,捍衛盛世之中華,捍衛中華,捍衛中華,捍衛中華”)

The tweet has more than 940 shares and close to 2,200 likes at the time of writing.

However, this claim is false. The video has nothing to do with the protests staged across China against its draconian COVID-19 containment measures that were blamed for hampering rescue efforts in the Urumqi fire.

Unrelated video footage

Annie Lab traced the full version of the video to a Douyin user by following an ID watermarked on the footage. It was published on Nov. 18, 2022, with the caption “The people are faithful and the country is strong.”

In the original video, the crowds are seen wearing mostly short-sleeved T-shirts; however, the record shows Beijing’s temperature on Nov. 18, 2022, was only 4 to 11 degrees Celsius.

Annie Lab found two more video clips posted by the same user showing people gathering at Tiananmen Square.

We could match some of the people appearing in the original footage shared on Twitter. The two clips (video1 and video2) indicate they were taken on the same day.

The same people appear in the Twitter video and Douyin video1
The Twitter video and Douyin video2 also show the same people

The two Douyin posts say people were waiting for the National Day flag-raising ceremony. One of them was indeed posted on Oct. 1, 2022, China’s National Day.

Photos published by other news outlets showing the same event also featured a similar atmosphere of people congregating at Tiananmen Square before sunrise.

We can also see an identical giant flower and fruit basket in the background with the phrase, “Bless the Motherland,” in the Twitter video and a photo published by Sixth Tone.

Picture of the flower and fruit basket installation at Tiananmen Square as seen in a Sixth Tone photo (left) and the Twitter video (right)

The celebratory installation seen in both clips has been a regular display at the annual National Day event. It was placed there for public viewing on Sept. 24, 2022, according to state broadcaster CCTV, and was removed about a month later.

Old audio clip

Annie Lab can also confirm that the chanting audio in the background was extracted from an unrelated clip.

A keyword search has led to a Bilibili video posted on Sept. 22, 2021, featuring college students garbed in military fatigue chanting the same nationalistic verses. The overlay text in the video sourced it to China Youth Daily.

We then found the same video posted by the Daily taken on Sept. 18 on its Douyin account.

One of the comments on this page led to another video that hinted the military training was conducted near the Tianjin Huanhu Hospital in northern China.

We geolocated the building seen in the background and can confirm it is the Tianjin Huanhu Hospital, also known as the Tianjin Naoxike Central Hospital near the Tianjin Medical College in the city’s Hexi district.

The same hospital building as seen in the Douyin video (bottom) and in Baidu maps

Tianjin Medical College uploaded a series of photos of the 2021 military training on its website; one of them shows students in an identical formation.

Annie Lab made a video showing how the audio track in the Tiananmen Square video was extracted from the military training video:

Beijing’s Tiananmen Square is an iconic landmark in China, best known for the 1989 student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that were met with a violent crackdown on June 4 that year.

To this day, the venue remains tightly guarded, but crowds are allowed to observe the national flag-raising ceremonies there.