Four netizens will be punished by police in Luxian county, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on charges of spreading "fake information" about the death of a high-school student, the local government announced Monday amid rampant speculation surrounding the tragedy.
Chinese social media erupted after a video showing the dead body of a 14-year-old student surnamed Zhao lying on the ground went viral, with many speculating that the student was the victim of campus violence.
Online posts claimed that Zhao, a Taifu Middle School student, had been killed by five classmates, and his body was severely bruised. Police said that reports that Zhao's hands and feet were "broken" were rumors, according to a statement issued by the Luxian government on its official WeChat account on Monday.
The allegations were traced to four Net users who "incited the public and severely disturbed public order," police say, adding that the accused would be punished by public security officials in accordance with law.
But mystery still swirls around the events that led to Zhao's death: Police said Zhao most likely fell from a nearby building. A public statement added that if Zhao's family agrees, an autopsy will be carried out to find the cause of death but ruled out the possibility that Zhao was murdered.
Yet many people claim that there's more to the case. The hashtag "Luzhou Taifu middle school" has garnered 66 million page views as of press time, with some Weibo users saying Zhao was beaten to death for not paying protection dues of 10,000 yuan ($1,450) to a local group of bullies.
Zhao's family cannot be reached as of press time.