China apologizes? Has Hell frozen over?

“Photoshop Friday” isn’t just a fun event held on certain online forums—it’s also an attempt to try and quell the concerns of Chinese citizens over environmental issues. An elaborate scheme involving a doctored photograph of antelope has backfired on the state-controlled media, backed by the Chinese government, forcing them to issue a rare public apology over the incident.

It all started in 2006 when China neared completion of its massive, high-altitude, $4 billion Qinghai-Xizang railway that connects Tibet with “China proper.” Environmentalists had protested loudly against the railway as its launch drew closer because it threatened the native habitat of an endangered antelope in China called the chiru. Coincidentally, it was about that time when a photograph appeared in Chinese newspapers by Liu Weiquing, a photographer with the Xinhua news agency (which so happens to be controlled by the Chinese government).

This photograph, pictured below, showed the Qinghai-Xizang rail system with a pack of chiru roaming underneath and ran alongside a story entitled “Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for wildlife.” It was then given an award for “photo of the year” by China’s state-run TV network CCTV, wherein Liu was interviewed about his experiences waiting for the antelope to pass. “I wanted to capture the harmony among the Tibetan antelope, the train, men and nature,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription). (link)

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