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False: These photos are manipulated to show Hong Kong stars holding banners in support of Xinjiang cotton


(Editor's note: this article is first published at Annie Lab, a fact-checking project by Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong and Asian Network of News and Information Educators (ANNIE), and was written by Audrey Ng.)

On March 26, a Chinese post on Twitter contained a photo collage of Hong Kong stars holding a banner that reads “I wear Xinjiang cotton.” The post, when translated in English, also claims the act is part of a propaganda campaign by the Chinese Communist Party and those Hong Kong artists are coerced to kowtow.

The photo collage has been retweeted more than 400 times and gained over 1,000 likes at the time of writing. It was also posted on LIHKG. A blogger on a Chinese website NetEase appears to think those images are authentic.

However, they are all manipulated.

The original photos were taken in June 2016 when two firefighters died in Hong Kong after trying to put out the fire that razed the Amoycan Industrial Center in Ngau Tau Kok for four days.

A search with the keyword “#向前線消防員致敬” (Salute to firefighters in the frontline) on Facebook shows a series of pictures showing many local artists holding the hashtag message.

A comparison on the manipulated photo collage (L) and the original photos (R) that were taken to pay tribute to the firefighters.

Many of those images are featured in this tribute video to the firefighters: Eric Tsang and Andy Lau’s photos appear at 1:33, Eason Chan at 1:34, Jordan Chan Siu-chun at 1:45, Julian Cheung at 1:49, Myolie Wu at 1:50 and Oscar Leung at 1:52.

The video was produced by nine local media organizations including TVB at the time as part of a social media campaign initiated by actor Eric Tsang.

Elsewhere, Raymond Cho’s photo was posted on Weibo; the one of Konnie Lui can be seen on Facebook; Miriam Yueng’s photo was featured in an article by Ming Pao.

The manipulated photo (L) has words cropped from the image (R) shared by People’s Daily.

The word “Mian Hua” (cotton) on the collage was cropped from an image shared by People’s Daily on Weibo that mimicked the logo font used by Swedish clothing brand H&M in a reversed order.

H&M has been under fire in China over a statement it made. The company said it will not source cotton from Xinjiang anymore amid allegations of state-imposed forced labor in the region.

There are two noticeable language mistakes in some of the manipulated images.

Typing mistake of the Chinese character of cotton.

First, the Chinese character of cotton should be “棉” not “綿”.

Secondly, the text in English on the paper held by Jordan Chan Siu-chun (middle, second row) says “I where” instead of “I wear”.

Among the artists who appeared in the manipulated collage, Eason Chan has publicly announced he will “resolutely boycott any behavior vilifying China” and terminated his collaboration with Adidas, while Jordan Chan shared the image of People’s Daily on Weibo.

Annie Lab can only verify that the photo collage is inauthentic. We could not determine the political views and stances of the artists regarding the issue.

The claim was also debunked by the Taiwan Factcheck Centre on March 29.

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


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