HONG KONG • Videos falsely claiming to show a Chinese military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have flooded social media over the past week, according to an Agence France-Presse investigation that has debunked multiple posts.
The videos, which have been viewed millions of times, have compounded fears about China's potential intervention in a two-month crisis that has seen increasingly violent confrontations between protesters and the Hong Kong police.
Some of the false posts appeared shortly after a Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman last week highlighted during a news conference a law that allows troops to be deployed across Hong Kong at the request of the city's government.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has maintained a garrison in Hong Kong since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
A Hong Kong government fact sheet on the law, which includes an estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 PLA troops in the city, is available online.
The city authorities have repeatedly denied that PLA troops have been deployed.
AFP has, however, detected posts on Facebook, Twitter, Weibo and other social media platforms with millions of views or interactions that claim to show masses of Chinese soldiers on foot and in tanks across Hong Kong.
"For your own safety all the HK residents are asvised (sic) not to go to public places and sea sides for next 48 hrs and avoid gatherings as PRC army is taking control of HK," said one purported Hong Kong government announcement posted on Facebook five hours after the Chinese Defence Ministry's comments on July 24.
The Hong Kong government has issued no such announcement. The video used in the post to purportedly show the crackdown was actually of Chinese military vehicles driving through Kowloon in Hong Kong last year.
In another piece of misinformation, a tweet shared footage of PLA troops walking at a train station alongside a claim that they were "entering Hong Kong". By yesterday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 1.4 million times. AFP found the video was actually filmed in the Chinese mainland.
Other videos posted on July 24 had the same claims of Chinese troops "entering Hong Kong" while using footage from other occasions.