30 September 2023

Misleading: Fireworks spectators’ video falsely linked to Wuhan protest and Turkey earthquake

Annie Lab sourced the original video to a WeChat user and geolocated it at Yanshi district, of Henan province’s Luoyang city. The crowds that spilled into traffic were actually gathering for a Lantern Festival public fireworks show, according to the WeChat user.


A Twitter video posted on Feb. 9 showed an enormous crowd spilling onto several roads from a bird-view angle.

The tweet claimed it showed tens of thousands of Wuhan citizens staged a protest on Feb. 8 against the city’s medical insurance reforms.

The very same video was also shared by another Twitter user who linked it to people in different Turkish cities fleeing from the threat of subsequent aftershocks following the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6. More than 46,000 people were killed.

These two tweets have picked up over 600,000 views and 1,000 retweets. The viral video has also been shared across numerous platforms including news sites, YouTube, Facebook and web forums, with false links pointing to the headline-grabbing protests in Wuhan and earthquakes in Turkey.

Both of these claims are, however, misleading.

The video shows neither the protests in Wuhan or Turkish people running away from emerging quakes.

It was in fact a short clip taken at Yanshi district of Luoyang city in Henan where massive crowds of people gathered for the Lantern Festival fireworks show held on Feb. 6.

In the comment section of one of the misleading tweets, more than a dozen users suggested that the video could be about certain Lantern Festival fireworks shows held in various Chinese cities.

Annie Lab followed the hints and eventually identified the original video posted on WeChat’s video channel on Feb. 6 by a user named “小臧同学856” with a caption that reads (when translated in English): “the entire Yanshi population is here.”

Yanshi is a prefectural-level city under Luoyang in Henan province of central China.

This screenshot shows the original video published on WeChat on Feb. 6

After the video had gone viral, the user offered a clarification that the traffic standstill was caused by Lantern Festival fireworks spectators spilling onto the main roads of Yanshi, and it had nothing to do with the earthquakes.

The user made no mention of the other misleading claim about protests in Wuhan.

The same WeChat user explained the video shows Lantern Festival fireworks spectators and is not related to earthquakes

Four days before the fireworks, a Yanshi district government notice about the event was published in Henan Business Daily.

Another newspaper Henan Daily, the provincial mouthpiece, reported on Feb. 9 that there were more than 200,000 live fireworks spectators, and another 200,000 of them tuned in online that evening.

To make sure, Annie Lab matched the images showing the identical facade of Lidu music club, Houzhuang residence and Waterfront Oasis residence, key features that were seen in the viral video.

The footage captured a river, a row of buildings outlined by yellow neon lights, and another edifice at the corner of the intersection whose first floor showed an array of what looked like brightly-lit store signs.

We geolocated the exact spot with Google Earth at the intersection of Binhe Road and Xinxin Road of Yanshi district of Luoyang city, Henan province.

The Lantern Festival, better known as the Yuanxiao festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month on the Chinese lunar calendar, which fell on Feb. 5 this year.