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April 18, 2014

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Online rumormonger gets 3-year jail term

A MAN who started false online rumors about major events, celebrities, government figures and national icons was yesterday jailed for three years.

Qin Zhihui, known as “Qinhuohuo” online, was convicted of defamation and provoking trouble by Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing.

Qin, 30, from Hunan Province, pled guilty to the charges relating to stories posted on Sina Weibo between late 2012 and last August.

“I have no one but myself to blame,” Qin told the court. “I have nothing to say in my defense. I just hope my case serves as a warning to others.”

Nationally revered figures were among Qin’s targets.

Zhang Haidi, a paraplegic renowned for her intellectual accomplishments and devotion to helping others, was said by Qin to have taken Japanese citizenship.

And Lei Feng, a young soldier who died in 1962 and is lauded by generations of Chinese for his selfless good deeds and modest lifestyle, actually lived in luxury, claimed Qin.

Qin also started a rumor that the family of People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan had settled overseas.

Another target was popular television hostess Yang Lan, who was falsely accused of cheating on the stock market.

Rumors about the 2011 bullet train crash in Wenzhou in the eastern Zhejiang Province, in which 40 people died, were also started by Qin.

He said China’s former Ministry of Railways had paid 200 million yuan (US$32.5 million) as compensation for a foreign victim. The post was reposted 11,000 times, the court said.

As an Internet user, Qin didn’t fulfill his duty to confirm the authenticity of information, the court said.

Worse, he fabricated stories and misled the public to have an antipathy to the government, severely troubling social order, the court added.

Qin is the first person to appear in court in such a case since the Ministry of Public Security vowed to clamp down on Internet rumors last September.

Well-known Internet personalities have since been detained for spreading online rumors.

China adopted tough measures to crack down on online rumors last year.

Those posting rumors face being charged with defamation if their posts are visited by 5,000 netizens or reposted more than 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation issued by China’s top court and prosecutor.

Anyone found guilty of that could face three years in prison.

Qin said he would not appeal against his sentence.


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