Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer and now famed Chinese Fauxtographer won’t be going to jail after all.
Welt Online reported, “Last October, he emerged from the woods in Shaanxi with his claim of a tiger sighting, plus dozens of digital photos. His claim was immediately embraced by officials in Shaanxi, who awarded him 20,000 yuan (about US$2,920) and much praise at a press conference little more than a week later.”
Reuters continued, “The court took note of the defendant’s admission of guilt and ‘obvious regret’ and gave Zhou a three-year reprieve, but a 2,000 yuan fine and an order to give back the cash reward were upheld, the Beijing News said in a separate report.”
The Xinhua news service reported that Zhou’s lawyers said that Chinese officials shared in the responsibility for the fraud. Apparently, Zhou’s sighting a rare tiger was “too good to check” for authorities as the news promised a boom in local tourism. Indeed, many government employees were fired after the truth came out.
Welt Online said the hoax unraveled after “someone came up with an old poster with a photo that looked strikingly like the tiger and posted it online, the public called for an official investigation. But Shaanxi officials stuck to their story. With a rare tiger in their area, the officials knew they could bring in a lot of money by boosting tourism and creating a nature reserve, said Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Fudan University, in a phone interview this week.”
It was only after “increasing pressure” that officials finally “confirmed the photo as a hoax ” and Zhou was taken into custody on fraud charges. Turned out Zhou had cut the tiger out of the poster, placed it in a wooded area and photographed it with a borrowed digital camera.
Another fauxtography scandal rocketed through the Internet earlier this year when a prize-winning photo showing rare antelope was revealed to have been photoshopped.