Video shows elite Indonesian police unit at airport -- not Chinese soldiers
A video of men in military fatigues lined up on the tarmac at an airport has been viewed tens of thousands of times in posts that falsely claim it shows Chinese soldiers arriving in Indonesia to protect the Chinese workers in the archipelago. The video circulated online just over two weeks after a deadly clash between workers at a Chinese-funded nickel smelting plant on the mineral-rich Indonesian island of Sulawesi. In fact, the officers in the footage can be seen wearing uniforms for an elite tactical unit within Indonesia's police force. Police said the clip shows the officers returning from a joint operation with Indonesian military in the archipelago's conflict-wracked eastern region of Papua.
The 25-second video was posted here on Facebook on February 2, 2023. It has been viewed more than 580 times.
It shows dozens of people wearing military fatigues standing in front of a Lion Air plane on the tarmac of an airport.
They can be seen filing off towards what appears to be an escalator connected to the airport terminal building.
The post's Indonesian-language caption translates to English as: "INDONESIA IS THREATENED TO BE COLONISED BY THE COMMUNIST CHINA. CHINESE SOLDIERS HAVE ENTERED INDONESIA TO PROTECT FOREIGN CHINESE WORKERS."
The video circulated online more than two weeks after a riot broke out at a Chinese-funded nickel smelting plant in Morowali regency, on Indonesia's Sulawesi island, during a protest over labour conditions.
At least two workers -- one Indonesian and one Chinese citizen -- were killed during the clash.
The video was viewed more than 43,000 times after it appeared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook here and here; on Twitter here and here; and on YouTube here and here; and TikTok here and here.
Posting on its official Instagram account on February 4, 2023, the Indonesian police stated that the video shows officers from the police force's elite tactical unit, the Mobile Brigade (Brimob), returning from Cartenz Peace Operation, a joint police-military operation in Indonesia's conflict-wracked Papua region.
"Police's Public Relation Division ensures that the [misleading] video is NOT TRUE or a HOAX. The fact is that video shows a Brimob squad who just arrived after finishing their duty at Cartenz Peace Taskforce in Papua," the post's caption reads.
A keyword search on YouTube found a video of the Cartenz Peace operation, posted on the YouTube channel of the Brimob's PR division.
At the 41-second and the 47-second marks, the video on Brimob's YouTube channel shows police officers wearing uniforms that correspond with those worn in the misleading video.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and Brimob's video (right):
At the one-second mark of the video in the misleading post, a small emblem for the Indonesian flag can be seen emblazoned on the right arms of two men's uniforms. The same emblem can be seen on the right arms of the uniforms seen starting from the 41-second mark of the Brimob video.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left), the Indonesian flag emblem zoomed in (centre) and Brimob's video (right) -- with corresponding parts circled in red by AFP:
Separately, Danang Mandala Prihantoro, a spokesperson for Lion Air, told AFP that the video shows a "domestic flight" and not an aircraft that had transported Chinese soldiers to Indonesia.
Lion Air's website shows flight routes served by the air carrier, which include several cities in Papua but not in China.
Below is a screenshot of Lion Air's flight routes listed on its website:
AFP previously debunked another false claim related to the Morowali clash here.