A Chinese-American businessman and social media celebrity who had been detained in August on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes was yesterday released on bail, his lawyer said.
Charles Xue Biqun - known to his 11.5 million Weibo followers as Xue Manzi - confessed on a state-run broadcaster in September to making mistakes in his online postings and now supports regulation of the internet.
Initially detained for solicitation and accused of other obscene acts last August, Xue had not been officially charged some four months after his arrest, the South China Morning Post previously reported, noting the arrest may have been part of a broader campaign to intimidate and silence government critics.
Xue's lawyer Qi Xiaohong said Xue, 61, was released on bond last night for health reasons and because he pleaded guilty and co-operated with investigators.
The case is still under investigation by Beijing police, who could not be reached for comment last night.
Xue's detention came days after President Xi Jinping urged cadres to wage a propaganda war to regulate the internet. Many argued that Xue's detention infringed on free speech.
The Supreme Court later issued a judicial interpretation of "online rumours", stipulating that a libellous post forwarded more than 500 times or viewed over 5,000 times could land its author in jail for up to three years.
In television footage, Xue said his popularity stoked his ego.
"I once felt like an emperor reviewing documents [submitted by underlings] when replying to or forwarding online posts. I got so carried away that my vanity ballooned. I overlooked social responsibility," Xue said.