Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan arrives at the National Stadium in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. ( AFP/POOL / CARL COURT)

Posts make misleading comparison of China's reception for Pakistan leaders

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

As Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China in February 2022, social media posts shared two photos that they claim show Chinese President Xi Jinping declined to personally welcome him at the airport in Beijing, despite apparently having done so for his predecessor Nawaz Sharif. The comparison is misleading; while the first photo does show Xi was absent for Khan's arrival, the second photo actually shows him with Sharif at an airbase in Pakistan in 2015, not "welcoming him in China". 

The image comparison -- shared more than 1,700 times -- was posted here on Facebook on February 4, 2022.

The top photo shows former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif walking alongside China's President Xi Jinping.

The bottom image shows the current Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan after disembarking a Pakistan Air Force plane. Xi is not pictured.

The posts claim the photos show Xi welcomed Sharif in person when he visited China during his term, but declined to do the same for Khan's visit.

"Nawaz Sharif's welcome, Chinese President Jinping. Imran's welcome, assistant foreign minister," reads Urdu-language text on the image.

"Together with the Pakistani people, even the world now knows the difference."

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on February 16, 2022.

The Urdu Facebook post reads: "The pictures are indeed saying that one is the prime minister of an atomic power, while the other is an atomic power's prime beggar."

While the post compares Xi's greetings to Pakistan prime ministers on state visits to China, in the past, he has not typically welcomed visiting world leaders at Chinese airports.

The images were shared in similar Facebook posts here, here, here and here; and on Twitter here, here and here.

PML-N lawmaker Noor Ul Hassan Tanvir also shared the misleading photo comparison on Twitter.

However, the posts are misleading.

Khan's Beijing visit

The first photo was taken from a post that Khan shared on Facebook on February 3, 2022 after he arrived in Beijing.

"Assistant Foreign Minister of China H.E Mr Wu Jianghao, China's ambassador H.E Wu Jie and Pakistan's ambassador in China Moin Ul Haque welcomed the Prime Minister at the airport," the Urdu post reads in part.

However, Xi held a well-publicised meeting with Khan on February 6, 2022, two days after the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

The pair were pictured here in a press release by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Pakistan meeting

AFP found no official reports that Xi greeted Sharif in person at a Chinese airport during previous state visits.

A reverse image found the second photo of Sharif with Xi was taken in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, not in China.

The photo was published here by US photo agency Shutterstock. The photo caption reads: "Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif with Chinese President Xi Jinping on his departure from Nur Khan Air Base on April 21, 2015 in Islamabad."

The photo was also published here by Pakistan media outlet 92 News on April 21, 2015.

Below is a screenshot comparing the image of Sharif with Xi in the misleading posts (left) and the original image (right).

Screenshot comparison of the photo of Sharif and Xi shared in misleading posts (L) and the original image (R)

Supporters of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) have often attacked each other online.

The PTI won control of Pakistan's National Assembly in 2018, replacing the PML-N as the governing party.

AFP previously debunked an altered image shared by a PTI lawmaker that purported to show an arrested businessman running for office on behalf of PML-N.