Increasing influence of China in Sri Lanka under the Rajapakshas has been an issue raised by the detractors of the regime and the opposition. We see a lot of campaign against this on social media as well. Sometimes false and misleading claims are also made on social media while trying to prove a point. Here is a fact check we did a few weeks ago on misleading posts about a train timing display at Mount Lavinia Railway Station.
On a similar note, we noticed satirical posts going viral on social media with images of Sri Lankan city names displayed on busses and boards. These boards had Chinese text, along with Sinhala and English, evidently omitting Tamil text. However, our investigation revealed that these were a series of evidently altered stock images.
Social Media Claims:
A Facebook page called “Athal Scenes – ආතල් සීන්” shared the below photo collage with the text “ඇසට හුරු කර ගමු” meaning “let’s get used to this view” giving the impression that Colombo Fort (Railway Station Board), Chilaw town name board and a route display from on Kelaniya-Kohuwala bus route would be displayed in Chinese text followed by Sinhala and English. This post was published on this was published on 13th of October 2020 (13.10.2020).
Same image also shared among many Facebook users in the Tamil community as well, as seen below.
More recently, we noticed that this photo collage is once again getting shared among WhatsApp groups and Facebook users claiming that “Tamil language removed from signboards and road names in Sri Lanka and replaced with Chinese language” Below is one such forward
A simple Google Reverse Image search revealed that all three images used to create the viral photo collage are altered versions of readily available stock images.
We noticed that a stock image published back in 2013, showing the Colombo Fort railway station, was used to create the first altered image.
Below is the image comparison between the image in the collage with the real image. Tamil text is omitted and Chinese text had been inserted to the original image from the Colombo Fort Railway Station
We also contacted the Railway Department General Manager and got a confirmation that Chinese language had not been included to any of the name boards.
Reverse image search for the second image yielded results showing image available on the internet since 2011, captioned “Chilaw sign board at the entrance of the town”
As in the case of Colombo Fort name board, the Chilaw city signboard had also been altered by removing Tamil text from the original image and inserting Chinese text. Below is the image comparison for the same.
One of the first occurrences of the third image, a bus signboard, was taken from an article published in 2012, captioned Trilingual bus signboards.
Interestingly in this edit, Tamil text was kept intact and Sinhala was replaced and by Chinese script. Below is the image comparison for the last image.
As per news reports, Department of Official Languages had conducted an audit on the much-hyped Mount Railway Station incident and given its recommendations that all government institutions should have public displays in Sinhala, Tamil and English, in the equal sized script.
From our investigation, it is clear that the viral photo collage created in a satirical manner is a collection of altered stock images. These posts are trying to imply that public name boards being displayed in Chinese could become a common sight with the increased Chinese influence in the country. However, people started taking these messages seriously as a lot of people considered these images to be true. They started sharing the images on WhatsApp groups and private chats as if the names in Tamil and Sinhala were already replaced with Chinese. Hence these images shared without proper context are highly misleading.
Title:Altered Images Showing Tamil language Removed from Prominent Display Boards in Sri Lanka Go Viral….Fact Check By: Nelson Mani