Chinese magazine publishes plagiarized & doctored photo

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Fake Photos»

Compare for yourself: Hou Xie's photo is on top. The image from a stock photo gallery is below. The faked photo (top) adds papers on the water's surface and is rotated (flopped) horizontally when compared with the original stock photo. (Credit:

Another prize-winning Chinese photo has been branded a fake.  This photo, submitted by Hou Xie from Hunan Province, bears an incriminating similarity to a stock photo and was published in August’s issue of  Chinese Photography magazine.

China’s Global Times reported that Huang Liangqing, a China Photographers Association expert, looked into the claims and found that “Tomorrow’s Reality” was a copy of the original stock photo.  But, Hou hasn’t admitted doctoring the photo.

Hou entered the photo, pictured above and titled “Tomorrow’s Reality,” in a contest sponsored by China Photographers Association. The contest had more than 180,000 entries, China’s Global Times reported.  Interestingly, reported there were only 15,114 photographs entered in the contest.  StinkyJournalism has written to the photographer’s association to learn which is correct.

The 100 winning entries, including “Tomorrow’s Reality,” were published in August’s Chinese Photography magazine.

“Tomorrow’s Reality” looks like a 180 degree rotated version of the stock photo, which is an image of bare trees in a lake.  It also features what appears to be scattered photos on the lake, where the stock photo does not.

The photo is a near ringer for a photo found in a decade-old photography book, according to the Global Times.  The Global Times reported that advertising manager Chen Lianjun identified the photo. But, China Daily reported that a clerk who works for Chen spotted the similarities between photos when asked to look at the Chinese photography magazine.  One thing both reports agree on is that Chen brought the similarities to the photographer’s association.

Hou’s image was submitted as part of the “art photography” category, so some alterations were allowed, China Photographers Association expert Qiao Xiaobing told

In art photography, the photographer “can use any existing materials to create new artistic effects, according to international conventions”, Qiao is reported to have said.  Even though one shouldn’t enter an altered photo in a contest, it’s not illegal, reported Qiao said.

Past Chinese Photo Fakery Scandals

StinkyJournalism wrote last month when the prize-winning photo in Beijing’s Clean Water Alliance photo contest turned out to be a fake.  Zhang Ziping submitted an image that ended up being a mirrored version of journalist Ren Shichen’s picture.  Zhang couldn’t prove he had taken the photo, and was stripped of his first place standing.  He didn’t receive any financial reward for his place. also reported that that in January, four other photos were found to be faked. Sang Yuzhu had been given the highest Chinese photography award, the Golden Medla Award, but was “stripped of his post with the CPA.”

iMediaEthics has also written extensively about the photo fakery case of Zhou Zhenglong, whose photos of an endangered tiger in a Chinese province grasped national attention. Zhou’s 2007 photos were used as publicity images by local officials.  When his photos were found to be fake – a citizen found a poster of a tiger which closely resembled Zhou’s tiger – Zhou was imprisoned and 13 officials involved in the scandal were fired or reprimanded.  Zhou was imprisoned in late April for violating conditions of his parole when he went out seeking the tiger, which he maintains is real.


Submit a tip / Report a problem

Chinese magazine publishes plagiarized & doctored photo by Hou Xie

Share this article:

Comments Terms and Conditions

  • We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which harass, libel, use coarse language and profanity.
  • We moderate comments especially when there is conflict or negativity among commenters.
  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *