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Six netizens arrested, sixteen websites shut down

UPDATE: Chinese censors target tomatoes amid Bo Xilai scandal (CPJ, 11 April 2012)

(IFJ/IFEX) - April 02, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by reports that six people are being detained by police in Beijing, China and that sixteen Chinese websites have been closed down by authorities.

According to a report by the British newspaper The Guardian on April 1, the spokesperson of China's State Internet Information Office said that rumours had been, "fabricated by some lawless people and had been a bad influence on the public." However the spokesperson did not elaborate further on the nature of the bad influence.

According to a report on 30th March by the Xinhua News Agency (the official news agency of the People's Republic of China), sixteen websites were shut down by Chinese authorities following their reports claiming military vehicles entered Beijing in response to political conflict associated with the dismissal of former Governor of Chongqing City, Bo Xilai.

Two of China's most popular microblog service companies, Sina and Tencent, suffered clampdowns for similar reasons. According to reports from various overseas media, both companies were forced to disable their comment functions for three days.

Xinhua also reported that six people were detained by Beijing police for spreading rumours on the internet, with many others receiving official reprimands for similar activities. Li Delin, a Mainland journalist, is also believed to have been detained by police for the same reason. Li has not been seen since March 23.
"Chinese laws that allow the police to punish anyone for spreading rumours through the internet allow for easy abuse." IFJ Asia-Pacific office said.

"According to Principle 6 of the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, expression may be punished as a threat to national security only if a government can demonstrate that:

(a) the expression is intended to incite imminent violence;
(b) it is likely to incite such violence; and
(c) there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence

There is no evidence that the six people recently detained, or journalist Li Delin, were inciting violence in this manner. As such, the IFJ questions the arbitrary nature of these detentions.

The IFJ urges the Central Government of China to amend the relevant law to incorporate this international standard, and demand the Beijing Police release those detained for exercising their freedom of expression.

We also urge the State Internet Information Office to re-open the sixteen websites forced to shut down, and provide a clear explanation for the reasons for their closure.


Authorities lift microblog restriction but still have Internet comments in their sights (RSF, 3 April 2012)

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