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Photo of traffic jam in China, not fuel price protest in Germany

A meme shared on Facebook in South Africa claims people in Germany spontaneously left their cars on the road to protest a fuel price hike.

“In Germany, the government has increased fuel prices, in just one hour... people abandoned their cars on the streets, avenues and walked home,” it reads. “Over a million abandoned cars, they had to lower the price. When the people are smart the corrupt can’t accomplish their goals.”

The meme shows a photo of a large number of cars on a multi-lane highway, with people standing and walking between them. 

Did over a million Germans abandon their cars in protest? We checked.

Free road travel caused massive traffic jam in China

According to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, the photo is of a traffic jam in Shenzhen, a city in China’s Guangdong province, in 2012.

Chinese politicians had granted free road travel by suspending motorway tolls. As a result, “hundreds of thousands of Chinese drivers spent the first day of the mid-autumn festival in gridlock”, says the Telegraph.

Twenty-four major motorways in 16 provinces were “transformed into enormous parking lots as 86 million people took to the roads”, a 13% increase on 2011.

“It was the first time in a decade that China's motorways had been toll-free,” the article says.

There were reports of frustrated drivers “walking their dogs along the hard shoulder, playing tennis, dropping to the tarmac to do press-ups, or simply snoozing in their cars”.

And “thousands of mobile phone pictures were quickly posted by drivers onto the internet, and the jams were a trending topic on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter”.

German fuel protest in in 2017 – no abandoned cars

Fact-checking site AFP Fact-Check said in an April 2019 debunking of the meme that the most recent fuel-related protest in Germany “took place in November 2017, in the context of the UN conference on climate change… in Bonn”.

“Protesters at the time asked for fossil fuels to be replaced with greener sources of energy,” not lower petrol prices. And nobody abandoned their cars. – Taryn Willows


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