Officials in tiger scandal return to leading posts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 May, 2009, 12:00am

Two senior Shaanxi forestry officials sacked over the infamous, counterfeit tiger photos of 2007 have turned up again in 'leading' positions in their old bureaus - about 10 months after being disciplined.

Deputy directors Zhu Julong and Sun Chengqian were among four sacked after the South China tiger photos taken by farmer Zhou Zhenglong were determined to be fake. The officials were blamed for failing to expose the farmer's scam and being too hasty in announcing the photos' authenticity without seeking approval from the provincial government.

A netizen first blew the whistle on the two officials' return on a posting on on Saturday.

The posting shows a picture of a report on the department's official website, saying that Mr Zhu and Mr Sun were among the six 'leading officials' that had joined a table tennis competition for departments in the province.

The report, posted on the government website on April 24, was still there last night. Also in the competition was Zhang Dulian, a department director given a warning over the scandal last year. Mr Zhu's and Mr Sun's positions in the department were not specified.

On October 3, 2007, Zhou claimed he had taken 71 photos of a tiger in the woods of Zhenping county, Nine days later, the provincial forestry department announced the discovery and awarded him 20,000 yuan (HK$22,700).

But soon netizens expressed their doubts about the photos' authenticity, and some said the tiger image had been cropped from a wall calendar published in 2002. They believed the farmer placed the image in the bushes and took photos of it.

Mr Zhu, deputy director at that time, defended Zhou and vowed he would resign if the photos were fake.

Four months later, the Shaanxi provincial government criticised the Forestry Department for breaching standard procedures when it held the October press conference and apologised to the public for how they had released the photos, shortly after they were confirmed as fake.

Last June, the Shaanxi government announced that seven officials from different departments, including Mr Zhu and Mr Sun, had been sacked, and six others punished. Zhou was arrested in the same month and in October received a 21/2-year suspended sentence for fabricating photos.

Many mainland officials removed from their posts or punished for wrongdoings have recently been found returning to the government only months after being disciplined.