Taken on 7 April, 2004, the photograph is actually of convicts at a sentencing rally in the Chinese city of Wenzhou.
A photograph purportedly of corrupt politicians being executed in China is being widely shared as a WhatsApp forward. The message reads “China executes 26 corrupt politicians, why can’t our country do it?” and urges those who receive it to forward the text.
The image, though, is not of corrupt politicians but of convicts at a sentencing rally in the Chinese city of Wenzhou. Taken on 7 April, 2004, the photograph — which is available on Getty Images — depicts Chinese policemen holding these convicts in front of them. 11 prisoners were later executed that day for various crimes, according to Getty.
Due to its nature of being a text message, it’s unclear where the forward originated. The same photograph has, however, been shared several times on Facebook and Twitter. Most of these posts are under the same pretext of being a photo of the Chinese state executing corrupt politicians.
The photo has also been shared by people on Facebook and Twitter across the world, and adapted to their own context. Users from countries like Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines have shared the image, using it as an example of how the Chinese state is holding politicians accountable for corruption.
China executes 26 corrupt politicians. This is what we want in Kenya. Our sweat is being fizzle by the few elites pic.twitter.com/VWg7ndZ0eD
— Rosemary 💙 (@DianahAkumu) June 5, 2018
Capital punishment is the legal penalty for crimes like murder and drug trafficking in China. Even though the number of people executed by the death penalty is a state secret, the People’s Republic of China executes the highest number of people annually, followed closely by Iran.
The high rate of capital punishment in China has drawn international criticism with human rights group Amnesty International even calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
In 2004, around the time the image was first taken, Amnesty had quoted a Chinese official as saying that the state executes at least 10,000 people a year. At the time, the Chinese figure was about five times the global number. The most recent estimate suggests 2,400 people were executed in China in 2013.
This article is in collaboration with SM Hoaxslayer.