So, you know that “incredibly beautiful” image of Hong Kong’s mass anti-extradition march on Sunday that’s been shared tens of thousands of times on social media? You know the one — with the throngs of people stretching as far as the eye can see, bathed in the soft pastels of streetlights as if illuminated by the very glow of democracy itself?
Well, we’re very sorry to tell you, it’s a fake — sorta.
Not only was the shot taken at a similar march on the previous Sunday, June 9, but the nighttime picture has actually been cropped and mirrored, effectively doubling the size of the crowd.
The image, which appears to show a Hong Kong street filled with people, was shared in this Twitter post on June 17, 2019.
Its caption says: “Report: 2.13 million ppl rallied in #HK. Incredibly beautiful!”
Organisers say around 2 million people attended the anti-extradition protest on June 16, 2019. Police put the turnout, as they customarily do, far lower, at around 340,000. Even if you split the difference between the wildly divergent counts, however, more than a million people took to the streets, making it the largest protest in the city’s history.
Meanwhile, the doctored image was also shared on June 16, 2019, by Demosisto politician Nathan Law on his Twitter account, where it has been retweeted more than 3,200 times.
The image was also shared on Instagram in a post that says: “Hong Kong’s biggest protest march ever on 16th June 2019.”
But, unfortunately, the image is not a real photo of the Hong Kong protest on June 16, 2019; it is an edited, mirrored image showing an anti-extradition bill rally in the city on June 9, 2019.
The edited photograph was first posted on Instagram by user @lsb.co on June 11, 2019, where it has been liked more than 33,000 times.
That post’s caption says: “whatever it takes. #AntiELAB #noextraditiontochina (photo is cropped and reflected).”
Cropping and reflecting are photo editing techniques that can flip and mirror an image.
If you look closely, you can see that the resulting image is vertically symmetrical, with even the smallest details replicated on both the left- and right-hand sides.
@lsb.co also shared the original, non-edited photo on Instagram on June 10, 2019, where it has received 2,700 likes.
The June 10, 2019, Instagram caption says: “You cant just ignore our 1.3mil peaceful protestors. HongKongers, rise to defend this beautiful place we call home, this is our very last and only chance tmr.”
Deacon Lui, whose Instagram handle is @lsb.co, confirmed to AFP over Instagram messenger that the manipulated picture is an edited version of the photo that he took on June 9, 2019. Liu said on Monday that he took the original photo from a building “opposite Hysan Mall and beside Sogo” department store building, looking at Hennessy Road.
While the news that the inspiring image is doctored may come as a bummer to some, there’s no need to feel down. Last Sunday’s protest was legitimately gigantic.
Witness, Exhibits A through E:
— Coconuts Hong Kong (@CoconutsHK) June 17, 2019
Took a break up at Hong Kong Park for an hour and was surprised when I came back down to discover the crowd seemed even stronger than when I left pic.twitter.com/DYu9cgFgV7
— Chris Horton 何貴森 (@heguisen) June 16, 2019
HK protesters are the best: Here they are making way for at least eight buses that got stuck after protesters occupied the road pic.twitter.com/LC2CLe4kz9
— Vicky Wong 黃瑋殷 (@vickywong710) June 16, 2019
The scene right now near the Olympic footbridge in Causeway Bay as thousands of protesters make their way from #HongKong’s Victoria Park. #NoChinaExtradition #HongKongProtests #ExtraditionLaw pic.twitter.com/BN4dxqZK6p
— Coconuts Hong Kong (@CoconutsHK) June 16, 2019
So there ya go, dear readers. Yes, that one inspiring image may not have been what it appeared to be at first glance, but Sunday’s march was plenty inspiring on its own — no Photoshop needed.