A video of tanks in China went viral on July 18, 2022, with social media users claiming it shows the Chinese government suppressing protesters in Henan over the ongoing banking scandals. However, the video was actually filmed in Rizhao City in Shandong province and according to our sources, the tanks were deployed as part of military drills.
If you only have a minute
Netizens, particularly in the Chinese-speaking world, have been sharing a video of tanks on the streets. They claim it shows the Chinese government using military force to control protests in Henan province, where ongoing banking scandals have been keeping customers’ compensation and deposits frozen since April.
However, the video was actually filmed in the city of Rizhao in Shandong province.
We reached out to a hotel on the same road where the video was filmed, who told us the military activity was actually a drill. Furthermore, the China Maritime Safety Administration published a press release informing citizens military exercises would take place from July 14 to 16.
Fact check in detail
Since April, customers of rural banks in the Chinese provinces of Henan and Anhui have been struggling to withdraw money. The financial group in charge of China’s rural banks, a type of bank outside the formal banking system intended to facilitate the economy in rural areas, has been accused of corruption. It has also been reported that some clients’ life savings have been unwillingly emptied during the crisis.
Many of these people have taken their anger to the streets, protesting in front of the banks to demand solutions and compensation.
This video (see below) showing numerous tanks on a street was first published on July 18 on Twitter and Facebook. Netizens claim it shows the Chinese government using military force to control ongoing protests in Henan province.
At the time of writing, the video has received almost 6.2 million views on Twitter, and it is gaining traction on other social media outlets as well.
Many Twitter users have drawn a parallel between the video and the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when the Chinese government deployed tanks and other fatal weapons to silence citizens.
Forged interpretation of the event
After taking a closer look at the videos, we found some clues to prove that the event did not take place in Henan.
In the clip, we can see a building glowing in yellow. Because of the low quality of the video, it is difficult to make out the words written on the building.
Nevertheless, by conducting a reverse search (see how to do it here), we found a photo of Hanting Hotel Rizhao Railways Station in Shandong province (eight rows down on the search), and not a bank in Henan.
The date of this photo on Baidu Map is unknown, and the appearance of the hotel is slightly different from what we see in the video. Nevertheless, the bulk of the building remains identical to the one in the clip.
We found a more recent image of the hotel on the booking website Agoda, which is identical to the building in the clip. It is therefore clear that the video was filmed in Shandong, as opposed to Henan province.
What were the tanks being used for?
Considering there is a naval base close to the city of Rizhao, many believe the activity was a military exercise.
The France 24 Observers team contacted the municipality, who were reluctant to disclose any information and told us they weren’t aware of the presence of tanks.
However, we also spoke to staff at Jinjian Inn, a hotel on the same road where the video was filmed, who confirmed the presence of the tanks on July 17. They told us the tanks were being used for a military drill.
This explanation was confirmed by the China Maritime Safety Administration, which made an announcement about the drill in the Yellow Sea region that borders the city of Rizhao and warned citizens not to get close.
The announcement of the maritime police in Shandong province reads: “From July 14 to 16, large-scale military activities will be conducted in the area at 36-53.00N122-06.00E、36-07.00N120-54.20E、35-09.00N120-54.20E、35-09.00N123-17.00E、36-38.00N123-17.00E、36-38.00N122-29.00E, and 36-53.00N122-26.00E. Entry will not be allowed.”
Therefore, the presence of the tanks is not necessarily related to the banking scandal in Henan.