In what must have been a strange day at the office, the Chinese embassy in Zambia has vehemently denied reports that China is stocking Zambian supermarkets with cans of (delicious) human meat.
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming felt compelled to issue the bizarre statement following rampant rumors circulating around on Zambian social media and even a report in one local newspaper.
The newspaper quoted a Zambian woman living in China telling her compatriots to steer clear of Chinese corned beef, because it is actually people! She claimed that Chinese beef companies were collecting corpses, marinating them, packing them inside tin cans labeled as corned beef and then shipping them off to southern Africa, via Xinhua:
I discovered it a few weeks ago, when I was invited to an interview in a large beef packing company. However I was later chased away when they discovered that I was from Southern Africa.
I don’t know why they do this to Africa, I think it’s all because of the growing population so they don’t have where to bury their dead anymore.
While it is certainly true that China is experimenting with ways to cut down on real estate for the dead, this rumor would appear to be false. Hoax-busting website Snopes.com has found that the photographs of “human flesh” shared online are actually from a 2012 marketing stunt for the video game Resident Evil 6.
China seems to have taken the canned human story as more than just a dumb hoax, arguing that it was started by “people with ulterior motives who were attempting to destroy the long-standing partnership between Zambia and China.” Ambassador Yang had this to say:
Today a local tabloid newspaper is openly spreading a rumor, claiming that the Chinese use human meat to make corned beef and sell it to Africa. 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.
Yang also demanded an investigation into the rumors, prompting a prompt apology from Zambian Deputy Defense Minister Christopher Mulenga.
“The government of Zambia regrets the incident in view of the warm relations that exist between Zambia and China,” Mulenga said. “We shall make sure that relevant government authorities will take up the investigations and give a comprehensive statement.”
Zambia is one of many African countries with deep economic ties to China. While China has frequently faced accusations of embarking on a neo-imperialist adventure in the continent, looking to do nothing more than secure oil and other natural resources, it has also played a helpful role in creating jobs and improving infrastructure.
However, China’s growing influence has bred resentment among many locals, who accuse China of offering low wages for dangerous working conditions. Back in 2012, a group of Zambian miners attacked two Chinese supervisors over a wage dispute, killing one and seriously wounding another.