Video shared with false claim that it shows 'Chinese people fleeing to Vietnam' after border reopening

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A video has been viewed tens of thousands of times in Chinese-language posts that falsely claim it shows people dashing across China's border to "escape" to Vietnam when the crossing reopened in February 2023. It was in fact filmed on the Vietnamese side of the border and shows people rushing to enter China.

"The day that the China-Vietnam border reopened, Chinese people rushed to escape the country," reads a post written in traditional Chinese published on Twitter on February 22, 2023.

The seven-second clip published along with the post appears to show people dashing across a square in front of a building and has been viewed more than 32,000 times.

Screenshot of the Twitter post, taken on February 27, 2023

Beijing's strict Covid-19 policy throughout the pandemic -- involving lockdowns, mandatory quarantines and mass testing -- kept the country essentially cut off from the rest of the world. AFP reported the policy has had a high impact on China's economy and triggered rare protests.

The claim circulated a day after the China-Vietnam border fully reopened to visitors and traders on February 21, 2023. The resumption was reported by Chinese government-run media here.

Earlier on January 8, as China lifted quarantine and reopened its borders, only citizens of the two neighbouring countries were able to return home, according to a Vietnamese local government announcement.

The video was also shared alongside similar false claims such as on Twitter here and here, and on US social media site Gettr here and here.

But the clip was in fact filmed on the Vietnamese side of the border and shows people rushing to cross into China.

Vietnam border gate

A search of China-Vietnam border points on Google Maps found an identical building here at the Mong Cai International Border Gate in Vietnam.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the building seen in the false posts (left) and on Google Street View (right):

Screenshot comparison of the building seen in the false posts (left) and on Google Street View (right)

People in the video appear to run towards a smaller doorway to the right of the building with a green sign that reads "departure lounge" in Vietnamese, Chinese and English.

A clearer image of the doorway can be seen in an article by the Vietnamese newspaper Tiền Phong on January 8, when people were first able to cross the border again.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the sign as seen on Google Street View (left) and in the news article (right):

Screenshot comparison of the sign on Google Maps street imagery (left) and the news article (right)

The Tiền Phong report noted hundreds of people lined up to go to China but quoted the Mong Cai Customs Department saying "so far (as of January 8, 2023), very few people from the Chinese side have the need to enter Vietnam".

The article went on to say there was "no jostling or disorderly situation at the Mong Cai border gate on the first day of opening".

Vietnamese information site Zing News also featured images from the January 8 reopening in an article here.

"In the opposite direction, there are very few people from China who went through immigration procedures to Vietnam," Zing News reported.

It said six Vietnamese citizens had returned home from China as of noon that day.

On February 21, 190 people entered Vietnam from China via the Mong Cai border gate, Zing News reported.

AFP has also not found scenes of people running in news reports about the China-Vietnam border reopening on January 8 or February 21.

A video published by the state-run China News Service on February 22 shows people walking across the border to Vietnam, rather than running.

Photos published by authorities in Mong Cai also show small groups of people walking towards the departure gate.

Cross-border merchants

AFP was unable to determine the exact date the video shared in the false post was filmed.

However, Vietnamese state media Thanh Nien reported in May 2018 on its website and on its YouTube channel about people from the Vietnamese side -- mostly merchants -- who competed to get in line for immigration procedures at the Mong Cai border gate to do business at the neighbouring Chinese city of Dongxing every day.

"At exactly 7.00 am, when the border guard opened the border gate, hundreds of people immediately ran and stepped on each other to get inside," the report reads.

The report said people ran to avoid hours-long waiting times for immigration procedures.

AFP previously debunked another video shared alongside a similar claim that Chinese people were fleeing to Vietnam following the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.