London police stopped a pair of YouTubers after the duo flew a mock spy balloon above the city’s Chinese Embassy sometime last week.
The stunt, which has drawn a combined 1.1 million views on TikTok and YouTube, “got real quite quickly” after armed officers showed up at the scene, Josh Pieters told Insider.
Pieters and his prank partner, Archie Manners, are known for daring, elaborate social experiments that have tricked not only the public, but also celebrities and influencers.
For their latest video — which sought to poke fun at the Chinese spy balloon downed by the U.S. military on Feb. 4 — the duo reportedly purchased a weather balloon from eBay and inflated it with helium from a party supply store.
They then equipped the balloon with a GoPro camera, tied it to a rope and allowed it to hover above the roof of London’s Chinese Embassy for about 10 minutes.
“We couldn’t make out exactly what was going on inside, but we did see a man on the roof who was conducting what looked like some very, very important business,” Pieters told Insider.
However, this notion that embassies — as well as consulates, as part of a state’s diplomatic mission — are sovereign territories of their corresponding countries is a common misconception and does not reflect international law.
Still, diplomatic missions are afforded certain immunities and protections. A security guard who saw Pieters and Manners’ balloon called the police, and a red van “normally reserved for diplomatic protection and counterterrorism” showed up with four armed officers, according to Insider.
The YouTubers were solely asked to take the balloon down.
“They asked us what on Earth we thought we were doing, and at that point we said we were just flying a balloon,” Pieters told Insider. “So they said, ‘Well, can you bring the balloon down?’ We said, ‘Absolutely.’”
So far, the stunt has amassed over 1.1 million views on TikTok and 70,000 views on YouTube. Reactions have been generally positive.
“Hats off to you, sirs. The things you keep coming up with are both entertaining and inspiring,” one YouTube user commented.
Another user declared, “This is singlehandedly the wildest thing someone has done on Youtube.”
“This is hysterical. Turnabout is fair play,” another commented.
Meanwhile, a TikTok user warned, “Try not to cause a diplomatic incident please guysss.”
“Bro’s trying to start a war,” another noted.
The Chinese spy balloon, the first in a series of aerial objects shot down by the U.S. in previous weeks, was determined to be part of a global surveillance program by Beijing.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that the three most recently downed objects do not appear to be related to the program, being “most likely tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions.”