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Photo shows Hong Kong police spraying protesters, not Japanese police spraying looters

June 25, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo depicts Japanese police spraying looters and rioters with blue dye so they can be identified and arrested later.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo is miscaptioned and being shared out of context. A reverse-image search reveals it actually shows Hong Kong police spraying pro-democracy protesters in 2019 with water containing blue dye.

THE FACTS: The photo showing people on a street being drenched with blue-tinted water circulated widely on Facebook with a false caption this week, reaching more than 6 million people.


“Japan sprays looters and rioters with indelible blue dye so they can be identified and arrested later,” a caption with the photo read. “How about it America?”

The misrepresented photo is being shared in the wake of nationwide protests in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, used his knee to pin a handcuffed Floyd to the ground. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.  

Peaceful protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have erupted in Japan in the past month — but this image doesn’t show one of them.

Instead, an internet search for the photo reveals it was taken in Hong Kong in 2019, amid protests sparked by a proposed law that would allow suspects there to be extradited to mainland China to stand trial.

During the protests in 2019, Hong Kong police used water cannons with blue dye in them, The Associated Press reported at the time.


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.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: