China punishes 197 for ‘spreading rumors’ about Tianjin blast, stock market crash and V-Day parade

By Ella Wong, August 31, 2015

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It used to be there were ‘three Ts’ the Chinese government considered particularly sensitive topics – Tian’anmen, Taiwan and Tibet. But this summer, online chatter over three stories that have dominated the headlines is also being carefully monitored.

The Ministry of Public Security announced over the weekend that they have punished 197 people for spreading “rumors about China's stock market, the recent fatal explosions in Tianjin or other key events.”

“People punished in the campaign expressed repentance over their misconduct that have [sic] ‘caused panic, misled the public and resulted in disorders in stock market or society,’” reports state-run news agency Xinhua.

The offending rumors included "man jumped to death in Beijing due to stock market slump," "at least 1,300 people were killed in Tianjin blasts" and unspecified “seditious rumors” about this week’s commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II.

The latest official death toll from the Tianjin explosions is 150 with 23 people still unaccounted for. A total of 367 people remain in hospital, including 20 in critical or serious condition, according to Xinhua.

Two years ago, authorities introduced legislation that criminalized spreading rumors – anyone who posts a rumor that is reposted 500 times or viewed 5,000 times faces a potential jail sentence of three years.

Police have also detained a journalist with investigative magazine Caijing, Wang Xiaolu, who is accused of fabricating and spreading fake information on China’s recent market rout

Wang issued a “confession” on national broadcaster CCTV, saying he had written an article about the market based on his own reporting and analysis, and should not have published it during “such a sensitive time.”

Meanwhile, senior executives at Citic Securities, China's leading securities dealer, are being investigated for suspected insider trading, along with an official from China’s Securities Regulatory Commission, who is being held over suspicions of insider dealings, taking bribes and forging official seals.

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