Two Bloggers Detained as Rumor Crackdown Expands
Reuters reports that two more influential—or “Big V”—bloggers have been detained amid the Xi administration’s ongoing crackdown on Internet rumors. Dong Rubin, owner of an Internet consulting company who had been in detention since September 20, has been arrested in Kunming, and cartoonist Wang Liming is now in police custody in Beijing:
Dong Rubin, 51, who runs an Internet consulting company, has been arrested in southwestern Kunming on “suspicion of falsely declaring the capital in his company’s registration”, state news agency Xinhua said late on Wednesday.
[Dong's lawyer] Yang said Dong believed he was “fundamentally innocent” in his actions on the Internet.
[...] In Beijing, the capital, cartoonist Wang Liming was taken into custody at midnight on Wednesday and has not yet been freed, his friend, Wu Gan, told Reuters by telephone.
Wu said police told Wang’s girlfriend they summoned him for forwarding a microblog post about a stranded mother holding a baby who had starved to death in the flood-hit eastern city of Yuyao.
“Suppression of this kind by the Chinese government is of no use,” Wu said. “Rumors arise because there’s no freedom to communicate on the Internet. Arresting people will not solve the problem because the problem does not lie with the people, but with the government.” [Source]
[Update: Wang has since been released from custody, as was brought to CDT's attention by a reader]. These are the latest detentions in a crackdown on online rumors, and come after the Supreme People’s Court issued a legal interpretation last month sanctioning fines and prison time for “rumor-mongers.” Hundreds have been detained since Beijing launched the campaign in August, including high-profile microblogger Charles Xue, muckraking journalist Liu Hu, and 16-year-old Yang Hui. With no end to this crackdown on highly influential web users in sight, some have refused to be silenced by the campaign.
A report from Caixin outlining the ongoing crackdown evokes a warning from the late Deng Xiaoping:
In the name of protecting social order, officials have taken steps to outlaw what they call rumors. Websites in China are indeed plagued by all kinds of rumors. Just ask movie or sports stars. In some cases, baseless rumors do, in fact, constitute defamation. China has laws targeting defamation; the challenge is how to enforce these laws fairly and strictly.
Then, there is another type of rumor – for lack of a better word – that worries regulators. This is the rapid spread of so-called political rumors, and it is the real target of the latest round of regulation. People who criticize the government on the Internet must now weigh the risk of being arrested.
[...] Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader and the architect of reform, openly criticized the tendency of officials to crack down on so-called rumors. “Problems related to people’s thoughts shouldn’t be handled by suppressing them,” Deng said in his speech at the meeting. “Tracking someone’s political background or the so-called political rumor upon hearing any discussion, especially somewhat critical discussions among people, and making it a legal case to crack down on that, this bad behavior must be resolutely stopped.”
In contemplating a new round of reform, Deng’s warnings are more relevant than ever. [Source]
Also see China Copyright and Media’s translation of a lengthy article by the director of People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit on the rumor crackdown, arguing for a more pragmatic approach to moderating online activity.