16-year-old Weibo user detained in Gansu under new online rumour rule

Authorities in Gansu hold an teenager under online media rule after a post alleging police negligence is forwarded more than 500 times

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 10:00am

A teenager in Gansu province has been detained under new rules aimed at clamping down on social media.

The case is the first reported by the mainland media since a controversial judicial interpretation was issued last week that allowed the jailing of anyone who posts defamatory messages online which are reposted at least 500 times.

The Zhangjiachuan county government in southeastern Gansu province yesterday announced one person had been detained under the new rule.

The suspect's identity was not disclosed but the Beijing Times yesterday quoted a man as saying police took away his 16-year-old son on Tuesday on charges of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles".

The report only identified him by his surname Yang.

According to the county government's statement, the case centred on the police's handling of the death of a local karaoke bar manager, whose body was found lying on a road on Thursday morning last week.

Public security officials conducted an autopsy and said he had died from head injuries after jumping from a building.

Yang heard a different account of the circumstances of the death from the man's family, the Times reported.

In an online posting, he said the manager had been beaten up after a quarrel, and accused the police of failing to properly investigate the incident. The karaoke bar's legal representative was Su Jian, he wrote, the same person who served as the deputy head of a local court.

The Times said Yang was mistaken and the representative was the wife of a local police officer. There was no deputy court head by the name of Su Jian, it said.

In addition to Yang, another person had received administrative detention and five others were fined for spreading similar rumours, the government said.

On September 9, the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a document stating a libellous online post that is forwarded more than 500 times or viewed more than 5,000 times could land its author in jail for up to three years.

It also warned that prosecutors could use the judicial interpretation to pursue "serious cases" in which online posts led to mass protests, ethnic or religious clashes, damage to the nation's image or harm to China on the global stage.

Pu Zhiqiang , a leading human rights lawyer, said Yang's detention, if confirmed, was the first known law enforcement action under the new rule.

"It indicates that sometimes a local government is very eager to implement a new policy of the central government," Pu said.

The county government statement hailed the social media crackdown as a concrete step towards "purifying the cyberspace community".

Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping said local authorities could use the judicial interpretation to stop people from expressing views that did not align with authorities'.

"This will have a negative impact on the freedom of expression," Mo said.