On 14 July, a bus explosion killed nine Chinese workers and four others near a hydroelectric project in Pakistan. Pakistani officials said that the blast could be a terrorist attack. Against this backdrop, several Indian media outlets churned out reports with two images to claim that Chinese workers have started carrying AK-47s to defend themselves.
Republic reported, “Chinese engineers carry out maintenance work at CPEC project in Pakistan” which was later changed to “Chinese Engineers Take AK-47s To Work At CPEC Project In Pakistan; Embarrass Imran Govt”. CPEC is an infrastructural project that stands for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and it has been operational since 2013.
The report says that these photos are doing the rounds on “social media” and depict “Chinese workers carrying out maintenance tasks at various CPEC projects in Pakistan, armed not with their toolkits but AK-47s, to protect themselves”.
A similar report was carried out by India TV that said, “Several photos are doing the rounds on social media platforms that show Chinese workers carrying AK-47s on their shoulders.”
WION published a report with the headline, “After Dasu bus blast in Pakistan, Chinese engineers working on CPEC spotted carrying AK-47 guns.”
The photos were also carried by India Today, News18, ABP Live, Navbharat Times, TV9, Zee News, Aaj Tak, Punjab Kesari, Hindustan, Prabha Sakshi, Republic Bharat, One India, News Nation, Asianet News and Swarajya (republished IANS story).
Old, unrelated images
For the first image, we used TOR browser to use the reverse image functionality on Baidu which led us to a blog that uploaded the same photo in 2018. We also found a website where the man doing the survey was interviewed and he said that he took the picture in 2006 in Pakistan.
Below we have added excerpts of the interview translated using Google translate.
For the second image, we performed a reverse image search on Google and came across a fact-check by the defence.pk website dismissing the claims circulating in Indian media.
The fact-check mentioned a blog where photos of different Chinese professionals was uploaded to show the training they had received after being stationed in the African continent. The blog is from May last year.
Old, unrelated photos were therefore shared by a plethora of media outlets as Chinese engineers carrying AK-47s while working on the CPEC project. Alt News was unable to find any credible reports supporting the news. After the bus explosion that killed nine Chinese nationals, China sent its own investigation team to Pakistan. “China and Pakistan will work together to find out the truth,” Chinese public security minister Zhao Kezhi said in a statement after a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart, as per AFP.