No, Hong Kong police not wearing watch on video not due to conspiracy theory accusations

The police explain the analog watch under public scrutiny.

Emily Lo | Belmont Lay | July 04, 2019, 01:19 PM

Fact time: Yes, a Hong Kong policeman did appear in a video clearly not wearing his watch.

But no, it was not a reaction to the public scrutiny and conspiracy theory accusing the police of pre-recording a video condemning protesters for violence.

Here are the facts.

Third big protest

Some 550,000 people took to the streets in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019 to express their dissatisfaction.

This was the third mass demonstration since the first one on June 9.

The third mass demonstration saw a largely peaceful march in the afternoon.

But things turned ugly at night when a group of protesters stormed and vandalised the Legislative Council (LegCo) building at about 9pm.

The Hong Kong Police Force released a video on Facebook at 10.21pm condemning the protesters' violent behaviour.

But rumours online subsequently claimed that the video had been filmed hours in advance.

A few hours after that conspiracy theory started making the rounds online, the Hong Kong police responded to the rumours with another video.

It's a little complicated, but here's the whole drama, explained.

Police, videos and their watches, explained

The Hong Kong Police Force released a video at 10.21pm warning protesters who stormed the LegCo building to disperse.

The video was fronted by Chief Superintendent Tse Chun-chung.

He condemned the protesters' violence and called on them to vacate the LegCo.

However, it was Tse's watch that caught the attention of Hongkongers online.

Online rumours: Video filmed in advance

Comments that appeared online claimed the video was recorded at around 5pm, as Tse's analog watch appeared to show 5 o'clock.

Screen shots of his watch then began circulating online.

Image via tang.earthquake/Facebook

The highly pixelated nature of the screen shots did not help distinguish the hour hand from the minute hand or second hand, owing to the poor resolution.

Such confusion led to multiple interpretations, such as 5:05pm and 11:35pm.

Beside Tse's watch, the Hong Kong police's apparent absence at the LegCo building also added to the theory that the whole incident was planned by the police as a "trap" to snare protesters acting badly.

The suggestion was that the police knowingly allowed the LegCo building to be breached.

Clarification from the police: Untrue rumour

A few hours after rumours made the rounds online, the Hong Kong police released another video on Facebook with Tse clarifying the rumours.

He gave a timeline of the events, explaining that they filmed and edited the video from 10:02pm to 10:12pm.

Tse also asserted that some of the images of his watch circulated online had been doctored.

The clarification video came with a high-resolution close-up shot of his watch with colour-coded annotation of his watch face: Green is the hour hand, purple is the minute hand, blue is the second hand, and yellow is the other second hand.

Screenshot via Hong Kong Police Force/Facebook

He then called out netizens for starting the rumours:

Modifying the photos to implicate the police is irresponsible.

Shifting the blame for the incident at the Parliament from protesters to the police is to 'push the cart before the horse'.

But commenters online did not seem to be convinced, saying "the more you try to explain, the worse it appears to be".

Police took off his watch in the next video?

Another screen shot was subsequently widely circulated on social media, showing Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung with his watch taken off in another video posted by the police.

Image via ChanKamShui/Facebook

Netizens quickly spotted the tan line on Kong's wrist and suggested that the police no longer wore watches in their videos after the hullabaloo caused by Tse's watch.

The missing watch screen shot was also posted to Reddit, where it was upvoted more than 5,700 times in a short span of time.

Here are some of the comments:

• The Police becomes smarter

• Thanks for the good laugh Hong Kong Police

• Yeah, now there's a watch shaped stain on each of their future videos

However, this is actually fake news.

The original video featuring this watch-less policeman was actually posted to the Hong Kong Police Force Facebook page at 8:30am, July 1.

Kong was responding to the clashes near Wanchai and Admiralty due to the flag-raising ceremony, and was urging protesters to leave immediately.

This means this video appeared online earlier than the one featuring Tse who was wearing his watch and condemning the storming of LegCo at night.