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For government officials in Huili, a distinctly modest county in a rural corner of south-west China, attracting national media coverage would normally seem a dream come true. Unfortunately, their moment in the spotlight was not so welcome: mass ridicule over what may well be one of the worst-doctored photographs in internet history. The saga began on Monday when Huili's website published a picture showing, according to the accompanying story, three local officials inspecting a newly completed road construction project this month.
The picture certainly portrayed the men, and the road, but the officials appeared to be levitating several inches above the tarmac. As photographic fakery goes it was astonishingly clumsy.
All this was, however, too late to prevent a torrent of mockery as the offending image was passed around chatrooms and other websites. Inevitably, within hours there was a flood of parodies showing the officials variously landing on the moon, surrounded by dinosaurs and, in one instance, joined on their inspection tour by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.