Fact check: Photo shows massive traffic jam in China in 2012, not a protest in Germany against increased fuel prices

Social media users have republished a post first published in 2018, which shows a photo of scores of cars at a standstill on a big road with some of the drivers standing next to their cars, accompanied by a caption that claims the photo shows a protest in Germany against a rise in fuel prices that made the authorities reduce the prices. The photo in reality shows a traffic jam in a city in China in 2012.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

“In Germany, the government has increased fuel prices, in just one hour of time people abandoned their cars on the streets, avenues and walked home. Over a million abandoned cars they had to lower the price. When the people are smart the corrupt can’t accomplish their goals,” says the caption that accompanies the photo, which has been shared approximately 170,000 times since 2018 and saw a resurgence in December, 2020 (here) .

“Let’s try and remember this people!”, said one social media user who shared the post in December (here) .  “This goes out to the people who have said to be (sic) that I can’t change anything… well maybe if you stood with me…we could!” said another (here) .

The photo was taken in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, in the Guangdong province, in 2012, as the British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported on Oct. 1 of that year with an article entitled, “Gridlock as China begins its ‘Golden Week’ holidays” (here) . The photo, credited to Rex Features, can be seen on Rex Features  here  entitled, “Traffic chaos during Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day celebrations in China – 30 Sept 2012. People stand next to their cars during a traffic ham in Shenzhen city, Guangdong province.”

The Atlantic also reported on the gridlock but without the photo shared by the Telegraph. The Atlantic told readers that Oct. 1, the first day of the Golden Week holidays, is the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, which commemorates the establishment of the Communist party in 1949. The article adds that according to official reports 740 million trips were expected to be made by 85 million travellers in that week alone (here) .

From January, 2021, fuel prices are set to increase in Germany as petrol and diesel will be taxed more heavily due to a new carbon dioxide tax, and a reduction in VAT to stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic expires (here  ,  here) . From the turn of the new year until the time of writing on Jan. 4, 2021, there have not been any reports of a protest in Germany like the one pictured in the social media about the rise in fuel prices.

This is not the first time that this image has circulated with the caption that links it to a fake protest in Germany. Examples of the post can be seen as far back as November, 2017 (here  ,  here) .


False. The photo of cars at a standstill shows a traffic jam in China in 2012, not a protest in Germany against a rise in fuel prices.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .