Two prominent Chinese state-run news websites face international embarrassment after publishing photos from a porn movie to illustrate an execution in the US.

State news agency Xinhua and Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times newspaper ran a 40-image gallery which, they claimed, depicted the last moments of a female prisoner before she was executed by lethal injection.

The gallery was posted under the headline "An actual record of the execution of a female inmate: Unveiling the world's darkest side," and had no accompanying article or captions.

The photos depict a young Caucasian woman in evident distress being led to a bare white hallway and forcibly strapped to a gurney by a female guard with light-blue hair.

The death row inmate, wearing a green dress, reveals large parts of her body during the operation.

A man with a ponytail, wearing a white smock and a surgical mask, then administers an injection and the young woman is finally left languishing motionless on the gurney, with the front of her dress open.

The logo of a Chinese website specialising in military affairs was stamped on each picture.

Swiftly removed

The gallery was picked up by other Chinese websites that explicitly described the scene as the execution of an inmate in an American prison.

However blog Out of My Face revealed the photos were actually screenshots taken from a scene of a fetish porn movie entitled Lethal Injection, which featured on a website specialising in rape pornography.

When the mistake was revealed, Xinhua and the Global Times swiftly took down the gallery.

It is not clear what the purpose of the post was, since China carries out the highest number of executions in the world.

Although Beijing doesn't release figures on capital punishment, it has been esteemed that some 4,000 people are executed by shooting or lethal injection in China every year.