Anti-rumour campaign

'Environmental expert' arrested in anti-rumour campaign

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 4:41pm

Chinese authorities on Saturday named and shamed an “environmental expert” as a nationwide “rumour” crackdown campaign continues.

The arrest of 47-year old Dong Liangjie on suspicion of “inciting trouble” in Beijing marks the latest detention by police of a series of at least dozens of bloggers in China accused of fabricating and spreading online rumours.

Dong, co-founder of a water-purifier company, is an avid user of China’s microblogging service Sina Weibo and is followed by more than three million bloggers. He has promoted himself as an environmental expert by frequently publishing environment-related academic articles or commenting on environmental issues.

But police said that many of the posts on his blog appear to contain sensational or false information that exaggerates the problem of environmental pollution in China, Xinhua reported.

For example, in one online blog post last year that was widely reposted, Dong cited an academic dissertation in saying that a study had found that water samples from six major water supply systems in China contained traces of contraceptive medicine that could affect the fertility of water consumers.

But later the dissertation’s author spoke up to say that Dong had distorted the paper’s conclusion, while other environmental pundits also debunked Dong’s claim.

Dong was keen to publish these kind of posts in order to boost his online influence and future advertisement of his company’s water purifiers, Beijing police was quoted as saying.

A newscast on state-run China Central Television also disclosed Dong’s links with venture capitalist Charles Xue, an influential social media celebrity who has more than 12 million followers on Sina Weibo. Xue has been detained in Beijing since August for suspected involvement in prostitution but the state’s propaganda has used him as a negative example of how online rumours and misleading online opinions can be exacerbated and spread.

Both Xue and Dong confessed that they worked together in promoting sensational microblog posts to boost their online influence, the CCTV report said.

“I should have confirmed the information [before publishing] … please accept my sincere apology,” Dong was seen saying to camera on CCTV as an apology for stirring social panic.