China Steps Up Assault on Internet Freedom
Chinese censors are taking aim at online celebrities in the name of "combatting rumors".
At least that’s what Chinese authorities are saying, as they rein in popular users of China’s social media sites. Many of them have risen to fame for openly questioning or criticizing the regime. And now internet police are deleting, suspending or monitoring their accounts, one by one.
According to state-media reports, the State Internet Office has closed the account of He Bing. He is the vice president of the School of Law at China University of Political Science and Law. He had over 460,000 followers.
Another two people had their accounts closed for "spreading rumors" about bird flu cases in Guizhou province.
Popular novelist and microblogger Murong Xuecun compared this to the crackdowns on intellectuals during Mao Zedong’s era. He also had his own microblog account deleted with over one million followers.
Netizens have proven to be active whistleblowers who provide an alternative to official news. They have also proven effective in exposing corruption.
The Chinese regime's battle against online voices has been ongoing. In 2006, it passed a law stating that "spreading rumors and false reports is punishable by administrative detention for five to 10 days."
Analysts say the latest efforts is a sign of the government's insecurity and people's lack of trust in official state media.