China Closes 31 Websites For Rumor Mongering

china post
Photo: Xinhua

A total of 31 websites have been temporarily shut down by the mainland’s internet regulators in the latest crackdown against what authorities called “rumour mongers.”

Xinhuanet.com, the state-run website, reported that the affected sites include an online game forum and two online bulletin boards  known as BBS,  one based in Guangdong and the other in Hebei province.

Also shut down, according to South China Morning Post, was the Beijing-based website for zhiqing or “sent-down youth” generations – the cultural revolution campaign that saw millions of young city dwellers sent to the hinterlands to be “re-educated by the peasants.”

The services of a Beijing-based mobile phone app for aggregating information – mostly news and forum posts – have also been suspended for seven days as a punishment, xinhaunet.com said. Xinhuanet.com’s report quoted an unnamed official, who said some people had “maliciously fabricated and circulated rumours, and these claims are seriously inaccurate”

The websites that were closed had “caused bad influence because of their improper management … and will be condemned”, xinhuanet.com reported.

Although the official did not say what rumours had been circulated, two sources familiar with the case said that the crackdown had targeted only “political rumours.”

Last August the Ministry of Public Security announced the special campaign against online rumours. The following month legislation came into force, which means internet “rumour mongers” can be jailed for writing defamatory messages.

Jiang Chengwu, the owner of Beijing Zhiqing Web, blamed the closure of his website on one post from a user, which had referred to retired party leader Jia Qinglin.

The owner of another closed website, Gonghe Web, or Republic Web, said overseas media had provided all the news on his website – including a homepage story about the inquiry into the son of Guo Boxiong, the former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.

“The internet regulators should go after those overseas media, rather than my website,” Boxiong said.

Chinese internet users can now face up to three years in prison for writing defamatory messages that are re posted 500 times or more.

China’s internet is under intense censorship because of government fears that the web poses a potential threat to the Communist Party’s dominance.

Only yesterday, President Xi Jinping, gave a keynote speech to the Brazilian congress, during his week-long visit to Latin America, in which he called for stricter management of the internet, Xinhua.com reported.

Xi believes the web will pose increasing challenges to state sovereignty, national security and development.

Chinese microblogs have become drivers of public opinion in recent years, with many drawing attention to official corruption, pollution and other issues.

In April, internet blogger Qin Zhihui became the first person to be sent to prison under the new rules. He was jailed for three years after being found guilty of “slander” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”.

In a more recent case, a man in Shantou, Guangdong province, was placed in detention for 10 days for making up rumours about a murder case.






     

     

    China has the world’s largest number of internet users at more than 630 million, official figures report, with more than 80 per cent of them accessing the internet using their mobile phones.

    The nation has the world’s most sophisticated online censorship system, known outside the country as the Great Firewall.

    It blocks many social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others, along with many sites hosted in Taiwan and those of rights groups and some foreign media agencies.

    Although social media has become a platform for users to voice complaints and criticism about the government, the authorities force domestic internet companies to delete user-posted content they consider too politically sensitive.

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