30 September 2023

Verified: People held white paper at human rights rally in Australia to support Chinese protesters

Annie Lab can confirm that demonstrators in Melbourne were pledging solidarity with Chinese protesters fighting for the end of COVID lockdowns last year.

A Jan. 31 Twitter video that showed people holding up white papers at what appears to be a street protest was widely shared with hundreds of reposts and over 1,000 likes.

The tweet claimed that the people of Iran and Myanmar stood in solidarity with Chinese students to “fight for freedom against dictatorships around the world.”

But many users questioned the video, saying the demonstrators were only demanding for more human rights in Iran, which had nothing to do with the COVID-19 protests in China.

Annie Lab looked into the claim and can verify the video was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, in December last year.

The human rights rally was led by the Iranian community in the city and was also meant to support the Chinese protesters indeed.

In the video, people are seen holding up blank papers, a symbol used by anti-COVID lockdown demonstrators to circumvent censorship across China’s wealthiest cities that began in late November last year.

The rare public resistance was said to have hastened the end of draconian lockdown measures under China’s zero-COVID policy then.

Meanwhile, large banners that read “Woman. Life. Freedom.” and the iconic portraits of Mahsa Amini, who died under the custody of Iranian moral police last September, could also be seen throughout the video. Amini’s death triggered ongoing global human rights protests.

A female voice can be heard in the video dedicating support to their Chinese counterparts, but there is no visual image of the speaker.

“This is for my Chinese friends who are under the same oppression as we are. You want to call it Islamic Republic, you want to call it China or Russia. We all work together … [against] other countries [that oppress] women, children and men. Together, we are united,” said the female voice in the clip.

A screenshot of the video shows the name of the organizer, Melbourne For Iran, on the back of a reflective vest.

Upon studying visual clues in the video, we are able to identify what appears to be the organizer’s name, “Melbourne for Iran.”

This led us to an Instagram account that promoted the rally on 120 Southbank Boulevard on Dec. 7.

The Instagram post by Melbourne for Iran calling for a protest in front of ABC Southbank Centre on Dec. 7, 2022.

The street view of Southbank Boulevard on Google Maps shows building features identical to those seen in the video.

Google Maps’ street view image of Southbank Boulevard matches with key building features seen in the Twitter video.

Annie Lab also searched for videos and photos on Instagram tagging the event organizer and found this reel posted on Dec. 8.

It showed a woman in a blue blouse giving a speech while holding a piece of blank paper. Her voice was identical to the one heard in the Twitter video.

This woman was tagged in another post written by the rally organizer with the handle @doctorminoo. She was also identified as human rights activist Dr Minoo Ghamari through a media interview calling on Australia to get tough on Iran over human rights abuses.

Two Instagram posts uploaded by different users included the identical speech made by Minoo Ghamari.
A comparison between a photo posted by Ghamari on the day of the demonstration and the street view image of the location.

Ghamari also spoke about the protest on her own Instagram account on Dec. 8 and reiterated her intention to display solidarity with Chinese protesters.