China will redouble its efforts to rid cyberspace of rumors and slanderous content and dish out heavier punishments for Internet rumormongers, a government statement said on Tuesday.
The joint statement issued by the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Internet Information Office said the move aims to “protect Chinese Internet users’ rights in their life, work and studies,” while urging netizens to help in “cleansing cyberspace.”
It said a nationwide campaign to crack down on Internet rumors is already underway. A number of websites have been closed, it said, adding that close to 40 Internet rumormongers had been investigated and punished.
The statement did not specify what kind of heavier punishments rumormongers could face.
In September, the country began to implement a 10-clause judicial interpretation. People who post defamatory comments online would face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted.
In April, Qin Zhihui, known as “Qinhuohuo” in cyberspace, was sentenced by a Beijing court to two years of imprisonment for defamation and another 12 months for affray, for defaming Chinese celebrities and the government.
Prosecutors had said Qin’s posts on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, included one claiming that Beijing had granted 30 million euros in compensation to a foreigner who died in a train crash in east China’s Zhejiang Province in 2011.
The rumor was reposted 11,000 times and commented on 3,300 times, with Qin’s fabrication inciting anger over apparent disparities in how foreigners and Chinese people were compensated after the accident.