With an eerie floating head and torso looming above a doll-sized figure, it could be a still from a supernatural movie. Instead the image now spreading far and wide is another spectacular Photoshop fail for Chinese officialdom.
The comically inept piece of doctoring, published by the government of Ningguo in Anhui Province, was intended to show the concern of Ningguo Deputy Mayor Wang Jun (汪軍) and other officials as they visited an elderly lady in the city, but authorities deleted it, apologized and ordered an employee to write a self-criticism after they were deluged with mockery by Internet users.
Microbloggers pointed out that while officials had merely said sorry for the obviously fake photograph, an official government crackdown threatens jail for lowlier souls spreading “Internet rumors.”
In a statement the officials said they had indeed visited centenarians, including Cheng Yanchun (程延春), during a Chinese festival, but an employee had merged two shots because the layout of the room where Cheng was pictured had prevented the photographer from capturing her and the officials in the same image.
“Cheng was sitting on a chair on the balcony, under the sun. The balcony space was very small and the camera lens could not cover the whole scene ... When the employee of the municipal civil affairs department uploaded the photos ... he simply merged two shots,” the government said. “We express deep regret to Internet users for its negative influence ... We will learn from the experience, to improve civil affairs work.”
It said the party committee and government had acted rapidly because of their serious concern, ordering the civil affairs department to require a self-criticism report from the employee and criticize him across the city.
“Official fraud, making rumors, and there is no need to take responsibility? But a netizen whose post is forwarded 500 times has to take criminal responsibility,” wrote one microblogger.
Others suggested the manipulation had actually captured a fundamental truth about officials, who appear to be giants beside Cheng.
“It truly portrays the social ecology: the image of officials is glorious, the people are small and humble! What a good [bit of] Photoshop; he is really talented!” wrote one.
Another suggested the officials were actually looking at real estate when they were pictured — presumably because of their enthusiastic expressions. A third sent round a spoof showing them gazing at a scantily clad young woman.