The Chinese government has issued a statement strongly dismissing reports that it is packaging and passing off human meat as corned beef and sending it to be sold at grocery stores in Africa.
The government responded after rumours, apparently started on Facebook, were carried in a post which showed grisly images of human meat being processed.
The post, was made by Facebook user Barbara Akosua Aboagye, and went viral earlier this month with more than 26,000 shares.
The statement, issued by China's ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming, said: "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. 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."
Zambia's Daily Post, among many news outlets, had published a report saying: "One cannot deny the possibilities (sic) of this being true since we all know that the Asians are among the largest population in the entire world.
"Since China is so overpopulated to a point where there is no space to spit, what do they do with the dead bodies of the Chinese? Well the answer might be that they are shipping the bodies to Africa in the form of canned meat, and they make a profit during the process."
The Telegraph reported that Zambia's deputy defence minister Christopher Mulenga has pledged that the government will launch investigations into the reports.
"The government of Zambia regrets the incident in view of the warm relations that exist between Zambia and China. We shall make sure that relevant government authorities will take up the investigations and give a comprehensive statement," he said.
Chinese state media suggested that "people with ulterior motives were attempting to destroy the long-standing partnership between Zambia and China", added the Telegraph report.
Snopes.com, a website which calls itself a "definitive reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumours and misinformation", said that the allegations are false. It said that the photographs in the Facebook post come from a number of sources, but at least one of them was from a 2012 marketing stunt for video game Resident Evil 6.
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