Skip to main content

China cracks down on websites allegedly spreading coup rumors

By Kevin Voigt and Lara Farrar, CNN
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State media: Popular Chinese microblogging halt comments section until April 3
  • More than 16 websites closed and six people detained for spreading coup rumors
  • Comes after shock of the dismissal of China politburo member Bo Xilai
  • Last week, China's internet filled with rumors of military vehicles entering Beijing'

Hong Kong (CNN) -- China's major microblogging sites have suspended comments sections after being "punished for allowing rumors to spread" of a coup attempt in Beijing, state-run media reported Saturday.

Sina's Weibo and Tencent's QQ -- Chinese versions of Twitter, which is banned in the mainland -- will stop use of comment function on the popular sites to "clean up rumors and other illegal information spread through microbloggings," according to Xinhua.

The comments sections will be disabled until Tuesday. The microblog sites have been "criticized and punished accordingly" by officials in Beijing and Guangdong, state media reported.

Authorities also closed 16 websites and detained six people, Xinhua reported, for allegedly spreading rumors of "military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing," a spokesperson for the State Internet Information Office told Xinhua.

An unknown number of people who also reported rumors were "admonished and educated" but "have shown intention to repent," Beijing police told state media.

China's Internet was rife with rumors of an alleged coup attempt last week after the shock dismissal Communist Party politburo member and Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai earlier in the month. Cyberspace discussions on Bo's fate have been censored.

On Weibo last week, bloggers who type in Bo's name, or even his initials BXL and homophones, typically got an automatic reply: "Due to relevant regulations and policies, search results for 'Bo Xilai' are not being displayed."

China's censors fuel online frenzy

Zhang Zhi An, an associate professor of journalism at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, says the government's actions are "not surprising."

"The government worries the information could have some mobilization functions, that it will make people worried about the stability of society," said Zhang who was attending a conference on microblog activism at Fudan University in Shanghai on Saturday. "The information that was posted hints that there is a very big struggle in the Central Party, and I think the Party can not accept this information.

"This is a very clear sign to netizens that they must be responsible for their posts online," Zhang said. "If it is not true, if it is fake, if it comes from your imagination, we will take actions to punish you."

This is the second time the government has taken serious action against China's microblogs, according to Zhang. The first time occurred in 2009 when dozens of Twitter-like sites were simply closed by the government. Since then, two main players have emerged in the market - Sina Weibo and Tencent's QQ.

The platforms have experienced explosive growth in recent years and in many ways have become alternative information sources for the country's 500 million internet users who post information that is not reported in China's state-controlled media.

Yet the platforms have been a source of ongoing concern for officials who fear that they could be used to mobilize protests or other movements that could jeopardize social stability, Zhang said.

In an effort to try to prevent the spreading of rumors or other information deemed sensitive or inaccurate, the government recently implemented a policy requiring all microblog users to register their accounts using their real names.

Sina Weibo and other micro blogging platforms were supposed to have implemented the real-name registration policy by March 16. On that day, only 19 million of Sina's 300 million users had registered their names, according to Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

CNN's Jaime FlorCruz contributed to this article

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general has confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
updated 1:07 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
A group in China escapes from a stuck elevator thanks to one man and his trusty hammer. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Facebook's founder says he taught himself Mandarin and tested his skills with students in China.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
China launched an experimental spacecraft that is scheduled to orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Full marks for ingenuity: This was a truly high-tech scam.
updated 1:26 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The rationale behind Confucius Institutes -- an international chain of academic centers run by an arm of the Chinese government -- is understandable.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
updated 1:11 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
ADVERTISEMENT