Chinese police have detained several people for spreading a rumor that HIV carriers and AIDS patients were trying to transmit the virus by contaminating food, in part of a move to crack down on Internet rumors, authorities said on Sunday.
Rumors that a group of HIV carriers and AIDS patients from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had laced restaurant food with their blood, leaving many people infected with the virus, were proved false after an investigation by related authorities, the State Internet Information Office told the People's Daily.
According to the office, the story was fabricated by a man surnamed Li in Luoyang in Henan Province, and posted online by a woman surnamed Qi in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan.
Li, Qi and other suspects charged with spreading the rumor have been placed in custody.
Meanwhile, four people from Xinjiang, who deliberately spread the rumor via text message, Weibo and instant messaging service QQ between November 11 and 16 in a bid to "cause instability and stir up ethnic tensions," have been punished, the office said.
The office also rejected other rumors that have recently circulated online, including one of an 8.6-magnitude earthquake in Yuxi in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, a story about two female college students in Central China's Wuhan who were murdered for their kidneys, and also claims that two female college students were raped after being plied with drink in Hainan.
Public security departments are tracing suspects who spread rumors and will punish them in accordance with related laws and regulations, said the office.
"Illegal spreading of false information online violates Internet order and harms the public interest," said the head of the bureau of network news under the office.
Chinese authorities will continue to clamp down on online rumors to build a healthy and orderly cyber environment, the official told the People's Daily, urging network operators in the country to strengthen information management with the aim of rooting out false information and online rumors.
Wang Chen, head of the office, said in an article that the country faces great challenges brought by the increasing influence of the Internet, especially with the rapid development of microblog websites, which serves as an important platform for citizens to express opinions and share information.
Wang Jianmin, a judge from Wuhan Intermediate People's Court in Hubei Province, told the Global Times that people who spread rumors may be fined around 500 yuan ($78.6) according to the Public Security Administration Law, and anyone who makes up and spreads false and harmful information on purpose, causing serious losses and impact, may be sentenced to five years in jail under the Criminal Law.