Misleading: This video does not show Hong Kongers being transported to “re-education camps”

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By Cherry Lai and Purple Romero

On Dec. 6, a video viewed over a million times on Twitter was shared with a claim that the clip shows Hong Kongers “watching their loved ones being bused out by China” and “sending them to ‘re-education’ camps.”

In the video people are thumping the window of a bus while shouting “Hang in there!” and “Take good care of yourself!” in Cantonese, holding their mobile phones with the flashlight on, presumably in hope of catching the attention of whoever was on the bus.

A flag containing the logo and name of the now-dissolved student activist group Scholarism, founded by activist Joshua Wong, can also be seen being held up by a group of people standing across the bus just outside a building.

The claim is misleading. The video was shot on Dec. 2, the day Joshua Wong and his fellow activists Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were sentenced to months of imprisonment for the siege of the Police Headquarters last year.

The video clip shows their supporters trying to bid farewell to them as the prison bus leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.

The text “懲 HKCS 教” on the bus refers to the Hong Kong Correctional Services. The vehicle is used by the government to transport people in custody from one facility to another.

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Comparison of the features of the bus in the video with the features of the vehicle in a government photo (middle)

Local media Hong Kong Free Press posted the video shot by Studio Incendo on their Youtube channel and wrote, “As night fell on Wednesday, supporters of jailed activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam continued to chase Corrections Services vans as they left court.”

Subsequent photos, social media posts and news reports confirm they were not sent to a re-education camp. After the sentencing, Wong and Lam arrived at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre later that day. Wong was also seen walking in the reception centre on Dec. 3, the following day.

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International media including the Associated Press reported that Ivan Lam (left) and Joshua Wong (right) arrived at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre after the court sentence.

A post from Chow’s official Facebook account said she would be spending her birthday, Dec. 3, in prison. She later appeared again in High Court on Dec.9 for her bail hearing.

In response to the Tweet in question, some users commented wrongly that it was an old clip showing the Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority of Turkish ethnicity in the northwestern region of Xinjiang in China.

Uighurs have been sent to re-education camps to be indoctrinated about communism, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and other media reports. China has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Others commented the video reminded them of what the Nazis did some 80 years ago in concentration camps in Europe where their captives were “re-educated” and maltreated.

On Dec. 14 Hong Kong Police issued a statement on Facebook clarifying the misleading claim, saying that the allegation of sending people to re-education camp was false.

Disclaimer: Although faculty members at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong have done everything possible to verify its accuracy, we cannot guarantee there are no mistakes. If you notice an error or have any questions, please email us at contact@annieasia.org.

annie lab

Fact-checking project @ HKU Journalism

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