- Josh Pieters and Archie Manners flew a fake spy balloon over the Chinese embassy in London.
- The YouTube duo bought a white balloon on eBay that resembled the one that fell over the US.
- Police stopped the stunt after receiving a call from embassy security.
YouTubers Josh Pieters and Archie Manners flew a white balloon over the Chinese embassy in London after the US shot down an object it said was being used for spying.
The YouTube duo are best known for their elaborate social experiments, such as tricking Carole Baskin into her first live interview and tricking right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins into winning a fake award that initialized “cunt.”
His next target was the Chinese Communist Party. In the video, they joked that sending an actual spy balloon over China “would require the coordination of international government agencies with the approval of presidents and prime ministers.”
Instead, they decided to fly their tiny balloon, equipped with a GoPro, over the Chinese embassy in London.
“Our logic was if a child can fly in a balloon and walk the streets of London, why can’t we fly in a balloon?” Pieters told Insider. “It was quite a big balloon, normally used for meteorological studies, but it was a balloon nonetheless.”
(U.S. officials said the balloon they brought down was much larger — about 200 feet tall and carrying heavy equipment suspended underneath.)
In the video, which has 47,000 views on YouTube and over 700,000 on TikTok, the duo fills up a weather balloon they bought on eBay with helium from a party supply store.
Then they made their way to the Chinese embassy in central London and gradually raised the balloon on a rope until it was above the roof of the building.
GoPro captured some footage through the embassy’s windows, but it was “a little dark and eerie in there,” Pieters said.
“We couldn’t understand exactly what was going on inside, but we saw a man on the roof conducting what looked like very, very important business,” he said.
Contrary to what Manners and Pieters said in the video, embassies are not considered the physical territory of the countries they host. But they are usually closely guarded and attract special care from the local police, in this case the London Metropolitan Police.
The balloon was flying for about 10 minutes before security came to ask what Pieters and Manners were doing. The guard then made a call and the police in a red van – normally reserved for diplomatic protection and counterterrorism – with four armed police officers turned up. That was “obviously pretty scary,” Pieters said.
“They asked us what we thought we were doing and at that point we said we were just flying in a balloon,” he said. “So they said, well, you can bring the balloon down. We said sure.”
The conversation appeared on video, with officials saying the stunt could be “offensive” to people inside the embassy. Manners and Pieters said that was not their intention and quickly lowered the balloon so they could pop it.
“It became real very quickly,” Pieters said. “It’s obviously a hot topic in the world right now, flying in a spy balloon.”
Insider reached out to the Chinese embassy for comment, but did not immediately hear back.