Two leading Dongguan police officers are being investigated for organising an online smear campaign against their former boss which accused him of raping a woman colleague, a Guangdong newspaper has reported.
The detentions come after the nation's top court warned that anyone spreading libellous information on the internet could be jailed.
Wei Xiangmin, chief of the Nancheng police branch in Dongguan, and his deputy Kong Yihong are being investigated for severely violating party discipline, according to the official website of the Dongguan disciplinary committee.
There were no further details about the inquiry, but a report by the Southern Metropolis Daily yesterday cited a top Dongguan police officer as saying the two were under scrutiny for online rumours.
According to the report, Wei and Kong paid hundreds of thousands of yuan to professional strategists from Shenzhen to post frequent messages attacking a Nancheng district leader who previously headed the Nancheng police branch.
The Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate, the country's top prosecution body, jointly issued a document last week stating that anyone who posted libellous messages online that were forwarded more than 500 times or viewed more than 5,000 times could be jailed for up to three years.
The Communist Party is aggressively trying to rein in the internet following President Xi Jinping's call to "seize the ground of new media".
According to the report, Wei was made Nancheng police chief in 2009, with responsibility for public security and management of migrant workers. The branch was named as one of the top 10 police offices in Dongguan last year, and Kong has a reputation as an outstanding criminal investigator.
It was reported the smear campaign began at the end of last year and ran to this June, with postings on all major microblogging platforms and online forums.
The poster claimed to be a woman police officer who was raped repeatedly by the former chief of Nancheng police. The poster also claimed the individual directed his subordinates to buy paintings, embezzle money allocated for housing compensation, and illegal obtain land and run internet cafes.
The postings were combined with graphics, attracting over a million followers on Sina microblogs. Dozens of mainland media have reported the allegation.