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Lawmaker demands tiger photo authentication
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A deputy to China's top lawmaking body, the National People's Congress, said she was ready to pressure forestry authorities into telling the public whether the controversial photos of a critically endangered South China tiger were true or false.

"I hope the State Forestry Administration will push the forestry department in Shaanxi Province to give a detailed timetable as to when the results will be published," said Xu Yuanyuan, a deputy to the annual parliament session set to open in Beijing on Wednesday.

Xu said she was ready to raise the topic at the session and put forth her suggestion.

"I also hope the authentication center of the Ministry of Public Security will get involved in the 'paper tiger' saga," she said.

The tiger photos, allegedly taken by Shaanxi farmer Zhou Zhenglong in his home county of Zhenping, were published in October and were used by the provincial forestry department as proof that the rare tiger still existed in the wild.

But Internet users accused Zhou of making the tiger images with digital software, and local authorities of approving the photographs to bolster tourism.

In December, State Forestry Administration demanded the provincial forestry department have the photo authenticated by a panel of experts, but no results have been published.

In early February, the Shaanxi Forestry Department apologized for publicizing the photos, but said nothing about their authenticity.

In sharp contrast to the "paper tiger" mystery, award-winning photographer Liu Weiqiang, 41, admitted last month he faked a picture showing Tibetan antelopes roaming calmly underneath a bridge where a train roared past.

Liu apologized to the public, resigned from the northeast China newspaper he was working, and had his contracts terminated with five leading Chinese media organizations including Xinhua News Agency.

This has prompted a renewed public anxiety in seeking truth about the "paper tiger" mystery.

"The government should not remain silent on the 'paper tiger' incident any more," said Xu, an automation specialist and delegate from the southern Guangdong Province. "It is responsible for revealing the truth to the public."

According to an online poll by several leading Chinese websites including xinhuanet.com and sina.com, the "paper tiger" saga is one of the major issues the public wishes the forthcoming parliament session to address, alongside price hikes, housing, education and medical service.

(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2008)

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