Two men have been detained in Beijing for ‘fabricating and spreading online rumours’ about corruption and ‘defaming the image of Lei Feng,’ the BBC reports. The men work for Erma Company, a marketing organization, and have been accused of spreading rumors ranging from the Guo Meimei wealth scandal to claiming that Lei Feng lived a life of material luxury.
Xinhua defends the arrests, of course, and claims:
Yang Xiuyu, founder of the Erma Company, and employee Qin Zhihui, were found to have created and spread online rumors and profited from their illegal acts, Beijing police said.
They are also suspected of the crimes of provoking trouble and illegal business operations.
Yang and Qin have confessed to the crimes. […]
Qin and Yang have confessed to police that netizens should be manipulated to believe that they are the “victims of social injustice” and only “anti-social activities could help them vent their dissatisfaction.”
China has carried out a campaign to crack down on online rumors, and government authorities said netizens should bear in mind basic moral principles and deter false information to create a sound Internet realm.
The South China Morning Post, however, sees the arrests as part of a looming crackdown on China’s liberals:
The arrests coincide with a concerted government campaign to discredit outspoken liberals and crack down on dissent since Xi Jinping became president. In April, a secret Communist Party Central Committee circular called on cadres to crack down on subversive forces within Chinese society.
Rumours spread by Erma employees over the last few years have been widely shared by well-known “public intellectuals” and liberal commentators with many followers, Wu Boxin, a professor at the Peoples’ Public Security University of China told the Beijing Times. He said those spreading the rumours have been linked with China’s most prominent advocates of political reform.
How dare Qin and Yang try and trick readers into thinking that they are “victims of social injustice”? Everyone knows (especially Xinhua) that everything is fantastically great and fair all of the time. Now please don’t arrest us.
[Image via The Daily Omnivore]