These pictures are from protests in France and Spain, not recent demonstrations in Hong Kong

A series of 12 images have been shared hundreds of times in Facebook posts that claim they show police officers attacking protesters in Hong Kong. The claim is false; all the images are from protests in Europe; nearly all were taken at “yellow vest” rallies in France.

The images were published on Facebook here on August 13, 2019, and have since been shared more than 300 times.

Each of the 12 images depicts street clashes between uniformed police or soldiers and protesters -- and they all have superimposed captions claiming the photos show police violence in Hong Kong.

Translated from the traditional Chinese script, the text accompanying the images says: “See! Water cannons have been put into use, do Hong Kong police want to kill these people? They even beat up journalists and solitary women, and threw stones at people. Are there no rules in Hong Kong? Really no way can I bear this!” It ends with a hashtag that reads: “Share and show this to the world.”

Below is a screenshot of the Facebook post:

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

Posts featuring the same series of images have been published elsewhere on Facebook with similar captions, such as here and here.

Pro-democracy protesters have staged weeks of rallies in Hong Kong that have often descended into violent clashes with police, as detailed in this AFP report from August 18.

But none of the photos in the misleading posts are from Hong Kong. All 12 images have circulated online long before the recent Hong Kong protests began; all were taken in Europe; most were taken in France.

The first picture, captioned: “Hong Kong police officers attack people with water cannons”, was taken by AFP. The original photo can be seen here.

Its caption reads in part: “Yellow Vest protesters receive water from a water cannon during clashes with riot police forces, in Paris on March 16, 2019.” 

The “yellow vest” movement (known as “gilets jaunes” in French) is a long-running series of public demonstrations against the French government. AFP reported on the March 16 protest here

Below is a comparison of a screenshot from the misleading Facebook post (L) and the AFP photo (R):

Comparison of a screenshot from the misleading Facebook post (L) and the AFP photo (R)

The second picture, captioned: “Hong Kong police officer throws a stone at people”, was taken from a screengrab of this video from public broadcast channel France 3, published on May 2, 2019.

The French language article accompanying the video says the footage was taken at a May Day demonstration in Paris.

Below is a comparison between screenshots of the misleading picture (L) and the France 3 video at the 18 second mark (R):

Comparison between screenshots of the misleading picture (L) and the France 3 video at the 18 second mark (R)

The third picture, captioned: “Hong Kong police officers attack a photographer”, can be seen in this April 19, 2019 article from French magazine Télérama.

The accompanying caption of the original photo says it was taken at a yellow vest protest in the French city of Toulouse on April 14, 2019, and it is credited to Ulrich Lebeuf of the MYOP photo agency.

Below is a comparison between screenshots of the misleading picture (L) and the MYOP photo (R):

Comparison between screenshots of the misleading picture (L) and the MYOP photo (R)

The fourth picture, captioned: “Hong Kong police officer kicks a man on the ground”, was taken from this article published by Turkish media Daily Sabah in 2017. The photo caption says: “French riot police and gerndarmerie (sic) units beat a protestor.” It is credited as a Reuters file photo.

Below is a comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the photo accompanying the Daily Sabah article (R):

Comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the photo accompanying the Daily Sabah article (R)

The fifth picture, captioned: “several Hong Kong police officers attack a woman hard”, is taken from this original AFP photo taken in Spain.

The original caption says: “A riot police officer wields his baton towards a protester during clashes following a demonstration in Valencia on February 20, 2012.”

Below is a comparison between the misleading picture (L) and the AFP photo (R): 

Comparison between the misleading picture (L) and the AFP photo (R)

The sixth picture, which purports to show a Hong Kong police officer kicking a woman, was published in 2016 in French news reports by La Dépêche here and Le Figaro here. The photo is credited to Jan Schmidt-Withley. 

A caption of the photo on the photographer’s website says the photo was taken at a demonstration in Paris on April 14, 2016.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the original photo (R):

Screenshot comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the original photo (R)

The seventh picture, with a caption that claims it shows a Hong Kong police officer beating a woman with a baton, is an AFP photo.

The AFP caption reads in part: “French riot police clash with protesters… on May 17, 2016, in Bordeaux.”

Below is a comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the original photo (R):

Comparison of the misleading picture (L) and the original photo (R)

The eighth picture, captioned “Hong Kong police officers attack a person on the ground”, is featured in this April 20, 2019 news report by Turkish media outlet TRT World.

The photo is credited to Reuters and captioned in part: “A protester lies on the ground as police officers advance at a demonstration… of the Yellow Vests movement in Paris, France, April 20, 2019.”

Below is a screenshot comparison of the misleading image (L) and the Reuters photo (R):

Screenshot comparison of the misleading image (L) and the Reuters photo (R)

The ninth image, captioned “Hong Kong police officer disguised as a black-clad protester whacks a citizen’s head”, is an AFP photo

The caption of the photo reads in part: “Factions of protestors fight against each others during a demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vests' ('Gilets Jaunes') movement in Nantes, western France, on February 2, 2019.”

Below is the comparison of the misleading image (L) and the AFP photo (R):

Comparison of the misleading image (L) and the AFP photo (R)

An earlier version of the tenth image, captioned: “Hong Kong police officers beat people with bats”, can be found in this January 19, 2019 article by Singapore-based media outlet Channel News Asia.

The photo is credited to Jean-Paul Pelissier from Reuters. The caption underneath reads: “Protesters wearing yellow vests clash with police during a demonstration of the ‘yellow vests’ movement in Marseille, France.”

Below is a comparison between the misleading image (L) and the photo published by CNA (R):

Comparison between the misleading image (L) and the photo published by CNA (R)

An earlier version of the 11th image, which purports to show Hong Kong police using pepper spray, was published here on a local French news website on December 3, 2018. The caption says the image was taken at a yellow vest protest in the French city of Strasbourg.

Below is a set of comparison between the Facebook image (L) and the photo featured on the news website (R):

Comparison between the Facebook image (L) and the photo featured on the news website (R)

The final picture, with a caption claiming that it shows Hong Kong police firing tear gas, was earlier published here on February 4, 2019 and credited to Oliver Corsan with a caption describing it as a yellow vest protest in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe, one of the French capital’s most famous landmarks, can be clearly seen in the background.

A comparison of the misleading image (L) with the photo credited to Olivier Corsan (R) can be seen below:

Comparison of the misleading image (L) with the photo credited to Olivier Corsan (R)
Rachel Yan