Charles Xue Biqun admits Weibo fuelled ego, state media reports

State media carries confession by Charles Xue in apparent effort to boost case for crackdown on internet celebrities and online rumour-mongering

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 2:04pm

Chinese-American investor Charles Xue Biqun, a popular weibo commentator who was detained last month on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes, has offered to work with authorities in their internet crackdown to help secure his release, state media reported.

Xue's pledge was carried across state media yesterday in what appeared to be the latest attempt by Beijing to justify its campaign against internet rumours and "Big V" - or "verified" - online celebrities who can command millions of followers.

Xue - known as Xue Manzi to his 12 million followers on Sina Weibo - told Beijing police that he had made mistakes with his online postings, and held himself out as an example of the need to regulate the internet, according to a Xinhua report. The report featured prominently on major news portals on the mainland yesterday.

Xue told police in a Beijing detention centre that online influence had fuelled his ego, adding that he had misled internet users on various incidents.

"I once felt like an emperor reviewing the documents when replying or forwarding online posts. I got so carried away that my vanity ballooned," the article quoted Xue as saying. "I overlooked the social responsibility of being a Big V, and brought about an undesirable outcome [for society]," Xue said, referring to his "irresponsible" republishing of unsubstantiated weibo posts.

"The internet is a virtual reality, but it needs order; a mature cyberspace needs law to keep it in check," Xue said.

Video: Charles Xue Biqun's statement to police

Xinhua also said Xue "began to get noticeably nervous" after authorities issued a judicial interpretation under which web users can be charged for spreading false information online.

"I can co-operate and we could work together [on this] - how about a handcuff-wearing Xue Manzi talking about the internet?" he said. He hoped to "get out sooner" if he "facilitated the propaganda work".

Police said they had received more reports from internet users about Xue's alleged criminal behaviour and his case was still under investigation.

The report drew a strong reaction among bloggers, with many focusing on the fact Xue was still in detention. Some bloggers said the tactic appeared like something out of the Mao Zedong era.

"The article makes me feel like I'm living in the time of the Cultural Revolution when people had to make constant apologies to win leniency from the authorities, who have unchecked power to smear their challengers," read one post on Sina Weibo.

On Friday, Wang Gongquan, another Big V and civil society advocate, was detained for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place".

President Xi Jinping has said the Communist Party should wage a propaganda war to win over public opinion and "seize the ground of new media".