Friday, February 22, 2008
China Eats Crow Over Faked Photo
HONG KONG -- It turns out that train tracks in Tibet aren't where the antelope play.
Earlier this week, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, issued an unusual public apology for publishing a doctored photograph of Tibetan wildlife frolicking near a high-speed train.
The deception -- uncovered by Chinese Internet users who sniffed out a Photoshop scam in the award-winning picture -- has brought on a big debate about media ethics, China's troubled relationship with Tibet, and how pregnant antelope react to noise.
The antelope imbroglio began in the summer of 2006. The Chinese government was celebrating its latest engineering feat, and an enthusiastic wildlife photographer from the Daqing Evening News was camped out on the Tibetan plateau eating energy bars and waiting for antelope to pass.
On July 1, 2006, in an event scheduled to coincide with the Communist Party's 85th birthday, Chinese President Hu Jintao hosted the launch of China's train to the "roof of the world." The $4 billion Qinghai-Xizang railway -- a remarkable system that transports passengers to an altitude (16,000 feet) so high that ballpoint pens can explode en route from the air-pressure change -- traverses 1,200 miles of rugged terrain to connect the rest of China to the remote Tibetan plateau.
The train, which soon brought many visitors to the pristine homeland of Tibetan Buddhists, became a flash point for China's long simmering tensions with Tibet. During construction, it drew fierce protests from environmentalists who said it would threaten the breeding grounds of the chiru, an endangered antelope species found mainly in China.
When the train service began, a remarkable photograph appeared in hundreds of newspapers, and it eased environmental concerns. The picture, captioned "Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for wildlife," featured dozens of antelope galloping peacefully across the Tibetan landscape, unfazed as the gleaming silver train raced beside them.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120363429707884255.html
Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent"