These photos actually show a Hong Kong protester holding a baton after he grabbed it from a police officer

Two photos have been shared hundreds of times in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter which claim they show a protester cutting off a policeman’s finger with pliers during a protest in Hong Kong on July 14, 2019. The claim is false; the photos are keyframes from a video which show the protester holding a baton after he grabbed it from a police officer.

The two photos were published here on Facebook on July 15, 2019 by a page with more than 14,000 followers.

The Chinese language caption of the post translates to English as: “A group of mobsters grabbed the police, and then directly cut off the police officer's finger with pliers.”

Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post:

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

The photos show a group of people people at New Town Plaza shopping mall in Sha Tin, Hong Kong. A person dressed in black has been circled in red in both photos.

Clashes broke out between pro-democracy protesters and police at the mall on July 14, 2019. This AFP video published on July 14, 2019 shows the scene in the shopping mall.

This AFP report published on July 15, 2019 states 28 people sought emergency treatment and seven men remained in hospital Monday morning -- including two in a serious condition. One police officer had part of his finger bitten off, according to police commissioner Stephen Lo. Police did not mention pliers being used as a weapon.

The same photos were shared with a similar claim here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

The claim is false; the photos are keyframes from a video which show the protester holding a baton after he grabbed it from a police officer.

A keyword search about the Sha Tin protest on Twitter found this 14-second video, which shows a police officer being kicked down an escalator before he is attacked by a group of people.

Below are two sets of screenshot comparisons of the photos in the misleading Facebook post (L) and keyframes from the Twitter video (R):

Two sets of screenshot comparisons of the photos in the misleading Facebook post (L) and keyframes from the Twitter video (R)

AFP analysed the video found it shows a person grabbing a baton from police officer who was kicked down the escalator.

The policeman can be seen holding the baton in his right hand at the one second mark in the Twitter video. Below is a screenshot of the police officer holding the baton:

Screenshot of the police officer holding the baton

The police officer is then kicked down the escalator by a person behind him at the two seconds mark in the Twitter video. He falls, and a large crowd gathers around him. At the eight seconds mark in the video, a person standing over him grabs the baton from the police officer’s hand. At the 11 seconds mark in the video, the same person can be seen holding the baton.

Below is a screenshot collage of the sequence with the baton circled in red:

Screenshot collage of the sequence with the baton circled in red

AFP found another video published here on July 14 which shows the same incident from a different angle filmed by Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily.

The footage shows the police officer holding his baton before he is kicked down the escalator. Below is a screenshot of the Oriental Daily video at the two minutes 18 seconds mark with the baton circled in red:

Screenshot of the Oriental Daily video at the two minutes 18 seconds mark with the baton circled in red

Hong Kong Free Press reported here that the staff union of Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK accused top management of instructing reporters to include the misinformation about the pliers in its reports.

The same photos were debunked by Hong Kong news agency Fact Wire here.

Rachel Yan