A video showing Chinese police violently arresting a man said to be running a fever has been circulating on social media over the past few days. Although the number of new cases of Covid-19 reported every day is dropping, the coronavirus continues to spread in China and authorities have been clamping down on the population in an attempt to thwart it. This tense situation has led to rumours and misinformation spreading across social media. We took a closer look to find out the truth behind this viral video – which turns out to be false.
The video has garnered close to 100,000 views on Twitter. Most of the comments and captions are from people who think they are viewing a real arrest.
"It’s going to end up like that in France, too, with mandatory screenings for coronavirus,” tweeted one social media user. "Chinese people don’t mess around with someone suspected of having Covid-19!” tweeted another.
A French Twitter user reposted the Chinese video with this comment: "This is what's going to happen here in France with checks for the #coronavirus."
A poster on YouTube added the caption: "China Ain't Playing Around With Anyone Suspected Of Having The Coronavirus!"
The video shows police officers stopping a car on a Chinese motorway, just after a toll booth. A man walks up and takes the driver’s temperature and signals that it is abnormal. Men wearing full protective gear tell the driver to stop so that they can carry out a full medical examination to make sure that he doesn’t have Covid-19. The driver refuses to comply and, instead, restarts the car and tries to drive off. He’s quickly stopped, however, when road spikes that could puncture his tyres pop up and a police van pulls up in front of him.
The driver gets out of his car angrily. A police officer stops him in his tracks by throwing a fishing net over his head. They then drag him out of the frame of the camera. The police and the vehicle are then doused with some kind of liquid, probably a disinfectant, to prevent any contamination.
A shorter version of the video was also posted online:
Another Twitter user posted a short version of the video with the caption: "#China Video shows that wearing masks is compulsory in certain cities, on pain of arrest".
A police training exercise
However, the longer version of the video contains a detail that gives a massive clue about what is going on in the video. At about 1’55”, you can see a sign that some of the police officers are standing by. It says “Exercises” in English and, below that, it says "anti-terrorism exercises" in Chinese. The entire scene was actually a training exercise being carried out by a Chinese SWAT team (the officers in the video wear jackets printed with the SWAT symbol).
A clue as to where the video was filmed can be found in the car licence plate, which you can see clearly on two separate occasions.
The prefix 豫R indicates that the licence plate is from Nanyang, in Henan province.
If you search for the terms “exercise” and “epidemic” in Chinese on Weibo, the equivalent to Twitter in China, you come across several different posts featuring this video. If you also search for the word “prevention” in Chinese, one of the first posts that pops up is one by the office of traffic management for the Chinese Ministry of Public Safety. On February 23, this office posted an excerpt of the video and explained that it showed a training exercise that had been organised on February 21 by police in the city of Tongbai, in Henan province (located about 200 kilometres from Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic).
"Extreme [training] exercise by police in Tongbai. On February 21, police in Tongbai took part in a simulation demonstrating how to prevent and control the epidemic. During the epidemic, please cooperate with authorities specialised in preventing the spread of diseases during screenings,” reads this Weibo post by the Chinese Ministry for Public Safety.
This video was first posted to social media by the Weibo account of the Office of Public Safety in Tongbai. It was posted on February 22, the day after the training exercise. Police forces in other towns also started sharing this video on social media with the same caption starting on February 23.
"Win the battle against the epidemic! Public safety exercise carried out by police in Tongbai,” reads the caption on the original posting of this video by the Office of Public Safety in Tongbai, Henan.
Police in the town of Changyi posted this on Weibo. (Shangdong)
Police in the town of Tianjin posted this on Weibo (Hebei)
Conclusion: This video shows a training exercise, not a real arrest. The SWAT team were practising what to do if anyone refuses to be examined during Covid-19 screenings.
Even though this video just shows a training exercise, there are regions in China where drivers must now answer a health questionnaire before continuing on their journey. They are then given a QR code, which must be scanned in order to pass through tolls.
Article written by Marie Genries