39 Netizens Arrested for Rumors of Runaway Chinese General
Rumors have been spreading online that Guo Boxiong,
former vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission,
has recently disguised himself as a woman
and attempted to flee China, only to be intercepted at customs.
On Sunday, mainland Chinese police had placed two netizens
under criminal detention and penalized 37 others
on charges of allegedly fabricating online rumors.
On July 20, Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua quoted
the police department as saying that a netizen surnamed Ma
in Beijing and a netizen surnamed Pei in Hainan both made
similar posts on Weibo, a Chinese website similar to Twitter.
They said that all incoming and outgoing flights in
Shanghai were delayed because they were catching someone,
and in order to prevent that person from fleeing or resisting,
they locked down the airport in the name of military exercises.
The Xinhua report says that the public security department
had placed both Ma and Pei under criminal detention,
and issued penalties and admonishment to 37 other netizens.
In fact, since Xu Caihou, another former Vice Chairman
of the Central Military Commission, was sacked on June 30,
online rumors were already claiming that the regime
had caught another ‘big tiger’ with Xu’s rank in the military:
By July 15 there were more online rumors about Guo
disguising himself as a woman and fleeing the country.
A story called, “The Great escape of General G" was widely
spread on the internet, detailing Guo’s escape,
including the time and the flight number.
Commentator Huang Jinqiu says that the so-called ‘rumors’
are the results of CCP’s opaque political operations
and lack of press freedom.
Huang Jinqiu: “A lot of information was labeled as rumors,
but many of them often turned out to be accurate predictions.
From the incident of Wang Lijun fleeing to the U.S. embassy
in Chengdu, to the incident of Bo Xilai, including the murder
of Neil Heywood by Bo’s wife, to Zhou Yongkang’s coup plot,
step by step, all of these were later proven to true."
Zhu Xinxin, the former editor of Hebei People’s Radio says
that a variety of strange political rumors have been circulating
in recent times, but many of them were leaked by top level
CCP officials amid their infighting.
Zhu Xinxin: “Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign
has caused the internal corrupt officials to panic,
hence there were so many complicated situations.
This has caused a lot of intentional or unintentional
information leaks from insiders.
This kind of verbal information could be distorted.
Other widely spread online rumors are that former politburo
member Zeng Qinghong is being investigated,
singer Song Zuying was arrested, Jia Qingling is jailed in Inner
Mongolia, and many other corrupt officials are being arrested.
Zhu Xinxin says that the main reason the CCP is arresting
netizens again in the name of suppressing rumors
is to unleash its anger towards the news of its internal
power struggles being spread widely among the people.
Zhu Xinxin: “The conflicts within the CCP
and in the society are becoming increasingly acute.
But none of this is being truthfully reported on.
[The information] gets passed on through word of mouth
and thus rumors are formed.
The purpose of ‘suppressing rumors’ is to intimidate people,
in order to deter public opinion."
Since the news of Guo Boxiong’s escape was released,
the CCP’s Internet Information Office announced via Xinhua
that 31 websites with relatively more so-called ‘rumors’
would face being shut down and rectified.
In fact, authorities have enforced a series of strict controls on
online speech since this year.
The “Internet Security and Information Technology Leading
Group" was formed in February led by president Xi Jinping.
In May, the Internet Information Office,
the Ministry of Industry and the Public Security Department
jointly carried out a so-called “Special Rectification Campaign
on Instant Communication Tools" nationwide for a month.
At that time, communications companies also claimed
to establish “special teams" of individuals to refute rumors.
Huang Jinqiu: “There is lack of free and democratic
supervision or freedom of public opinion in China.
Are the so-called rumors really rumors?
Netizens definitely have their own judgment and standards.
If the government won’t clarify or disclose something,
then netizens will get the information from other sources,
then confirm with each other, and this becomes a kind of
indirect supervision by public opinion."
Many people say the year 2013 saw the most severe control
of speech in China.
From China’s web portals to newspapers and magazines,
from traditional communication platforms to emerging social
media platforms, from popular bloggers to celebrities
and reporters, all of them experienced the CCP’s suppression.
According to CCP’s data from January,
during the so-called “Clean the Internet" campaign last year,
more than 10,000 so-called illegal websites were investigated
and more than 11,000 people were arrested.
Interview & Edit/LiYun Post-Production/LiYong