FactCheck Social Media

People cutting down lamp post were not in Wuhan and were not protesting about 5G technology

2020-04-08 13:12:17

The Statement

A Facebook user claims that crowds are pulling down 5G telecommunications towers in Wuhan as a global conspiracy conflating new 5G technology with the impact of COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world.

The video, posted to Facebook April 1, shows black-clad protesters cutting down a lamp post.

Some of the protesters are holding umbrellas and cheer when the lamp post falls to the ground.

Text accompanying the video states: “This is wuhan China pulling down 5g towers which they ain’t showing in the news”.

The April 1 video has been viewed over 142,000 times, shared over 2000 times and received over 200 interactions.

Screenshot of Facebook post
 A Facebook user claims a video shows 5G towers being pulled down in Wuhan, China. 

The Analysis

As conspiracy theories and rumours about the connection between 5G and COVID-19 spread online, an April 1 Facebook video purports to show people in Wuhan  “pulling down 5g towers”.

AAP FactCheck has identified the April 1 Facebook video to be of protesters pulling down a ‘smart’ lamp post in Kowloon, Hong Kong, not a 5G tower in Wuhan.

In the first 15 seconds of the video a sequence of shots shows protesters cutting and pulling down a lamp post. Visible in the background is a red building branded with the logo “Megabox”.

The location of the MegaBox shopping centre is Enterprise Square Five 38 Wang Chiu Road, Kowloon Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong. The only MegaBox shopping centre on record is in Hong Kong, with no record of a MegaBox shopping centre in Wuhan, China.

AAP FactCheck used Google Street View to determine where the video was taken from and found the location to be at, or close to, 11 Sheng Yuet Rd, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

The 2019 Hong Kong protests erupted in response to a proposed extradition law that could have seen the transfer of fugitives from the semi autonomous region to mainland China.

Hong Kong’s ‘smart’ lamp posts have been controversial since their rollout in June 2019. The lamp posts are being used to support the 5G network on the island among other things. Protesters, however, are pulling them down because they believe the posts house cameras that could feed facial recognition software, not over fears related to the roll out of a 5G network.

The incident filmed did not occur in 2020 but in fact happened in August, 2019, as evidenced by video and photography from two more sources.

A photo from Getty Images photographer Anthony Kwan shows the same lamp post being pulled down in close proximity to a building branded with an “Exchange Tower” logo. The Exchange Tower building is visible to the left of 11 Sheng Yuet rd, Kowloon, in Google Street View.

The caption of Kwan’s photo reads: “Protesters attempt to pull down a smart lamp post during an anti-government rally in Kowloon Bay district on August 24, 2019 in Hong Kong, China”.

A video published by The Guardian on August 26 uses some of the exact same footage showing protesters spraying the  lamp post with an unidentified substance. The Guardian video is titled “Hong Kong: anti-surveillance protesters tear down ‘smart’ lamp post” and was uploaded on August 26, 2019.

On December 31 2019 the World Health Organization was informed that pneumonia of an unknown cause was detected in Wuhan, China. The culprit would later be identified as the new coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 infection, placing the beginning of the outbreak of the potentially deadly disease months after Hong Kong protesters felled ‘smart’ lamp posts around the semi autonomous region.

Hong Kong protest
 A protester tosses a tear gas pellet during a demonstration in Hong Kong in October, 2019. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claims in the post to be false. The video does not show protesters in Wuhan pulling down 5G towers, rather protesters in Hong Kong pulling down ‘smart’ lamp posts well before the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was discovered.

False – The implications of the content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://factcheck.aap.com.au/