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BEIJING (Reuters) - The chief editor of a Chinese newspaper resigned after it came to light that one of its photographers had faked a prize-winning photograph of endangered Tibetan antelopes appearing undaunted by a controversial railway.
The photograph by Liu Weiqiang, 41, showed more than 20 of the endangered creatures wandering beneath an overpass of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a controversial project that opened in July 2006, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
The train to Tibet drew international criticism for penetrating environmentally sensitive areas and for further opening up culturally distinct Tibet to increased migration by Han Chinese.
The photo, purportedly shot a week before the railway's official opening, had been named one of the "10 most impressive news photos of 2006" by state broadcaster China Central Television, Xinhua said.
It was published by numerous Chinese media outlets and distributed widely on the Internet, the news agency said.
Liu admitted to having spliced two shots together to create the image after a posting on photography Web site xitek.com late last week noted a fault line in the photo -- and that the shy antelopes were awfully calm for having a train rush overhead.
He resigned from the Daqing Evening News in northeastern Heilongjiang province, Xinhua said, adding that on Sunday, the paper issued an apology for failing to supervise Liu properly and editor Wang Zhongyi resigned.
"I have no reason to continue my sacred career as a newsman. I am not qualified for the job," Xinhua quoted Liu, the photographer, as saying in a statement.
It is the second case involving fake, or suspected fake, photographs of endangered species to roil China in the past few months.
In October, Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer from northern Shaanxi province, produced photographs of a tiger he said were taken in the forest near his village.
A local forestry authority said the photographs were proof that the South China tiger, belonging to a sub-species long feared extinct, still existed in the wild.
Internet users cried foul, accusing Zhou of making the tiger images with digital software, and local authorities of approving the photographs to bolster tourism.
The department later apologized for publishing the photos without going through the proper procedures. It has said nothing about their authenticity.
Reporting by Jason Subler