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Video of China Tanks Are Military Exercise And Unrelated To Bank Protests

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The big hullabaloo on Chinese social media is that the government is now deploying tanks in front of banks to discourage depositors from assembling to protest their frozen bank accounts. The truth is that there are tanks present in the streets of Hunan province (where accounts were frozen) but for purposes of a “military exercise” not related to the protests. The AP calls the rumors false. The fluidity of objective and the categorization of truth, however, exists in a space that is neither true nor false. When a government regularly deploys propaganda to shape domestic and international perception, any movement can be considered suspicious. Bank protesters have been physically harassed by Chinese law enforcement. Deploying tanks to the streets of Henan province may not serve a “functional” purpose (for now, at least) but it serves a “symbolic” purpose. And based on the social media buzz resulting from the deployment, it’s working.

CLAIM: A video shows tanks deployed in the streets of China’s Henan province to protect banks from protesters whose accounts have been frozen.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This video was captured in the eastern province of Shandong, China, more than 400 kilometers (248 miles) away from Henan province. It shows an annual military exercise unrelated to the bank protests, according to a front desk employee at a hotel visible in the clip.

THE FACTS: Thousands of social media users and dozens of online publishers this week are falsely claiming a video of military tanks lined up on a street shows the Chinese government protecting banks from angry protesters.

“Tanks are being put on the streets in China to protect banks,” read a tweet shared more than 47,000 times. “This is because the Henan branch of the Bank of China declaring that people’s savings in their branch are now ‘investment products’ and can’t be withdrawn.”

Some posts used the video to advertise cryptocurrency. Others used it to criticize China. Many likened the video to China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

However, these claims misrepresented both the location of and the reason for the display, which took place in Rizhao, a city along the Shandong coastline, as part of a military exercise.

An online search for landmarks shown in the clip revealed that one prominent building is the Ji Hotel in Rizhao, also identified on travel websites as the Rizhao Lighthouse Seaside Scenic Area Hotel. Trees featured in the video match trees that appear in images of the hotel.

A staff member at the Ji Hotel’s reception desk confirmed to an Associated Press reporter that the tanks did drive past on July 17, as part of a military exercise that happens every year. She said it was not linked to any bank protests.

In the video, bystanders can be seen calmly standing on the sidewalk filming the tanks.

Rizhao is home to a Marine facility, according to a publicly sourced map of Chinese military installments that was created by a Taiwanese student. It is several hours away from the capital of Henan province, Zhengzhou, where four of the banks at the center of the recent protests are based.

The Chinese bank depositors involved in the protests are among thousands of customers who opened accounts at six banks in Henan and the neighboring Anhui province that offered relatively high interest rates, the AP has previously reported. The customers later found they could not make withdrawals after news reports that the head of the banks’ parent company was wanted for financial crimes. A parent company linked to the banks is under investigation by police.

Bank customers have been harassed and attacked by police, most notably in a protest earlier in July in Zhengzhou. Multiple bank customers interviewed by the AP said they have been interrogated and threatened by police.

Bank authorities have said they will give some bank customers their deposits back, but many customers are still waiting to find out when they will be reimbursed.

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AP researcher Si Chen in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

Originally published by AP News.

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