Six People Were Just Arrested In China For Spreading rumours Of A Coup Online

China computer

Photo: AP

China closed 16 websites and detained six people for spreading rumours that military vehicles were entering Beijing, as microblogging websites disabled their comment features for three days.The authorities detained the six for “fabricating or disseminating online rumours,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported today, citing city police and the State Internet Information Office, without naming the detainees.

The websites were closed for spreading rumours that “something wrong” was going on in Beijing, Xinhua said.

Speculation of a coup spread on the Internet on March 20, helping spark the biggest jump in credit-default swaps for Chinese government bonds in four months. The Communist Party holds a congress later this year to pick the next generation of leaders who may run China for the next decade and the lack of a transparent process may escalate the risk and impact of rumours.

Sina Corp. started a 72-hour suspension of the commenting function on its popular microblogging site today, citing a need to clear up rumours and illegal information, the company, whose Twitter-like service has more than 300 million registered users, said in a statement. Users opening Tencent Holding Ltd.’s microblog site saw a similar notice.

 

Detainees’ Miocroblogs
 

Sina and Tencent didn’t specify what prompted them to turn off the comment function. The detainees spread the rumours using microblogs, Xinhua cited the Beijing police as saying, without naming either of the two companies.

The State Internet Information Office said both sites had been “criticised and punished accordingly” by authorities for a number of rumours, the agency said.

Today’s suspension of comments set off a wave of Internet commentary questioning the measure’s rationale and effectiveness, and led some users to speculate on the identity of the detainees.

Zuo Ye Ben, a Sina user with more than 2 million followers, offered 100 iPads and other luxury prizes to anyone who managed to leave a comment during the suspension period. No one had claimed the prize after the post was forwarded more than 30,000 times.

 

–Joshua Fellman and Wenxin Fan. Editors: Nathaniel Espino, Paul Tighe

 

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Joshua Fellman in New York at [email protected]; Wenxin Fan in Shanghai at [email protected]

 

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at [email protected]

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