China has been forced to deny claims that it is marinating dead bodies, canning them and selling them as a meat product in Africa, after a bizarre Facebook hoax went viral.
Rumours of the alleged trade in human meat first began circulating on social media thanks to a series of photographs of what appeared to be skinned people in a meat factory.
Zambian press was accused of encouraging the rumours, after publishing articles that quoted alleged sources from inside the Chinese meat factories.
According to the alleged sources, the idea to use human meat came when China ran out of space to dispose of its dead.
Others claimed Beijing preferred to save its ‘good meat’ for richer, more powerful countries.
But China’s ambassador to Zambia has issued a furious denial of the allegations.
‘Today a local tabloid newspaper is openly spreading a rumour, claiming that the Chinese use human meat to make corned beef and sell it to Africa,’ said Yang Youming, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.
‘This is completely a malicious slandering and vilification which is absolutely unacceptable to us. We hereby express our utmost anger and the strongest condemnation over such an act.’
He reportedly claimed that the rumours were being circulated by ‘people with ulterior motives were attempting to destroy the long-standing partnership between Zambia and China’.
One Facebook user shared the images alongside the caption: ‘Chinese people have started producing corned beef with their dead bodies and sending them to Africa.
While the gruesome photographs were enough to fool many, hoax-busting website Snopes.com pointed out that at least one of the images was from a 2012 marketing campaign for the video game Resident Evil 6.
The image, which appears to show a dead human body in an abattoir, was actually taken during a publicity stunt in London’s Smithfield Market.
A fake shop, called Wesker & Son Resident Evil Human Butchery, sprang up at the market selling meat products shaped to resemble human body parts.
Nevertheless, China’s ambassador to Zambia called for an investigation into the allegations, which led to an apology from the Zambian Deputy Defence Minister Christopher Mulenga.