Xinhua News Agency

'Tigergate' inquiry results demanded

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am

An NPC deputy has demanded a deadline for an official verdict on photographs that figured in the 'Tigergate' scandal.

The issue has ranked alongside price rises and housing as top concerns in an online poll on matters to be addressed at this year's congress.

'I hope the State Forestry Administration will push the forestry department in Shaanxi province to give a detailed timetable as to when results will be published,' Guangdong delegate Xu Yuanyuan said yesterday.

'The government should not remain silent on the 'paper tiger' incident any more. It is responsible for revealing the truth to the public.'

Shaanxi forestry officials released two photos taken by farmer Zhou Zhenglong in October and claimed the images were proof of the rare South China tiger's comeback. But netizens swiftly denounced the photos as digitally doctored, and the criticism soon escalated into a public outcry about government integrity.

Shaanxi forestry officials finally apologised for being too rash in announcing a sighting of the highly endangered species but remained tightlipped on the public's biggest concern - the authenticity of the photos.

A group of photographic experts, botanists and zoologists decided to examine the photos and concluded in early December that they were fake.

The state forestry ordered the provincial department to commission another authentication later in the month with a state-level agency. But a state forestry official admitted anonymously at the end of last month that no agency had so far been appointed to do the job, since none was willing to take up the hot potato.

The sluggishness in that case contrasts sharply with the rapid sacking of photographer Liu Weiqiang by Xinhua and four other mainland media outlets. It came after he apologised publicly last month for digitally composing an award-winning picture showing a herd of Tibetan antelope running under a bridge as a train roared overhead on the new Qinghai-Tibet railway.