Police departments in three Chinese provinces were forced to defend themselves on social media against rumours of police brutality after images surfaced online apparently showing policemen beating up and thrashing citizens. A minute-long clip titled “Changyuan policemen beating up teachers”, was published on popular forum Tianya.cn, showing about a dozen uniformed officers dragging down a man even as he held up his arms in peace, then kicking him and beating him with batons. The officers were also seen arresting a group of men who were lying face down on the ground. An accompanying photo showed a policeman having lifted a woman by the collar and throwing her on the pavement, her legs in the air, as dozens of fellow officers watched. The internet user who uploaded the clip claimed in the post that both the video and photo showed the teachers from a high school in Changyuan city, Henan province, being assaulted. They were reportedly holding a demonstration outside the local government compound against a decision to downgrade their high school to a technical secondary school, which would spell cuts to their funding. “More than a dozen teachers were severely injured and taken to hospital,” the post claimed, prompting some mainland netizens to accuse police force’s brutality. However, Changyuan police department quickly issued a response on social media, denying that any of its officers were involved and refuting the claims in the post. It said the video and the picture showed two separate incidents, involving police officers in two different provinces. “The video portrays the Bazhou police’s crackdown on a pyramid-selling organisation in Hebei province on January 21,” the Changyuan force said on its official Weibo page. “Police officers in the photo are also not from out department,” it added. However, the police department of Bazhou in Hebei province hit back at the Changyuan police’s allegation, saying they had no involvement in the incident snapped in the photo. However, it did not dispute about the account of video. “The police officers in the screen grab are not from our department,” they commented on the Changyuan force’s Weibo posting and blamed it for “misleading the public”. The response prompted Changyuan police to backtrack and say that the picture depicted a scene in Xian, the capital city of Shannxi province in central China from last week. Local police said they were responding to housing owners whose demonstration “seriously disrupted traffic at a major road”, it said. As of Monday Xian police department said at this time it could not confirm if the picture was taken in Xian, Southern Metropolis Daily reported. The photo was among a set of pictures of the Xian protest on January 21 which users uploaded on the internet. Despite confusion over the images’ provenance, however, netizens said the police departments involved should explain the use of force against citizens. “No matter if she’s a teacher or pyramid-selling participant, a woman ought not be violently treated like this,” said a commentator with alias Laotoujixiang on Weibo.