Authorities in China have punished 197 people, including a journalist and various stock market officials, for spreading false information online about the Tianjin warehouse blasts and the recent slump in stocks.
The rumors in question include online reports that a man had jumped to his death in Beijing over stock market losses and that 1,300 people had been killed in the Tianjin explosions. The official death toll from the August 12 blasts that rocked a Binhai district warehouse is now at 150, according to Chinese media.
Xinhua also said that some people had also been punished for ‘seditious rumors’ about the upcoming military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 3.
Among those targeted in the roundup was Wang Xiaolu, a journalist for Caijing Magazine. Wang was placed under “criminal compulsory measures” after “confessing” to writing false information about the stock market.
According to Asia Times:
Wang wrote a story in July saying the securities regulator was studying plans for government funds to exit the market.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) quickly denied the Caijing story, labeling it “irresponsible”.
But Caijing said it “defended journalists’ rights to do their duty under the law”, according to a statement posted on its website.
Xinhua reported that authorities had also detained an official from China’s securities watchdog and four senior executives of the country’s major securities dealer for “stock market violations”.
Liu Shufan, an official with the CSRC, was held on suspicion of insider dealings, taking bribes and forging official seals, said the report.
Liu “confessed” that he has forged official seals to fake a court ruling on divorce and taxation certificates for his mistress.
Human rights groups maintain that Journalists and high-profile personalities are often forced to make televised confessions after facing heavy pressure from authorities seeking to secure a conviction.
Since taking office, Xi Jinping has attempted to “sweep out yellow, strike at rumors” in his crackdown on dissent. In 2013, the government announced that posts containing “inaccurate information” clicked and viewed more than 5,000 times or reposted 500 times could result in up to three years in jail for the original author.