Fifty-two people from China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have been detained for unapproved online activity in recent weeks by communist authorities, according to a Mongolian human rights organization.
The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center reported on Sept. 4 that in accordance with a new “strike hard” campaign, at least 52 netizens have been arrested for “creating and spreading rumors.” On Aug. 29, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau released a statement blaming the “criminal suspects” for distributing more than 1,200 pieces of information mainly of “Internet rumors and false reports of disaster, epidemic, and police emergency.”
“Upholding the principle of ‘strike, investigate and punish group by group,” the statement concludes, the authorities would deter “these criminal activities in order to protect the legal rights of the broad masses.”
According to regime mouthpiece Xinhua, this “Strike Hard” campaign is “implemented by the Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau in response to the request from the Autonomous Region leaders and the consolidated deployment by the Public Security Ministry,” with the goal being to “establish a long-term mechanism for suppressing Internet rumors.”
Of the 52 who were arrested, “21 were held in police administrative detention, 10 fined, 3 warned, 18 educated and reprimanded,” according to Xinhua. “Some even sensationalized the conflicts that occurred during the development process in Inner Mongolia, deliberately stirring up ethnic relations, encouraging the masses to appeal for their interests in a radical way such as student strikes and protest demonstrations.”
Twenty-three netizens were “punished” for “spreading rumors” related to “China’s plan to relocate earthquake victims from Sichuan Province to Inner Mongolia”, Mr. Yang Xiaoping, Deputy Director of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau, told the Chinese official news agency China Broadcast Network on Aug. 13.
“Most of these netizens disseminate these information out of ethnic sentiment. However, through our investigation we found out that some netizens have ulterior motives and are trying to make some trouble to the society,” Yang said.
Arresting netizens for “spreading rumors” is a tactic in common use with the communist authorities as they expand their crackdown on online dissent. People can be detained for even minor remarks.
In Aug., a 20-year-old woman from Hebei Province was given a five-day detention for asking on a local website, “I heard a murder was committed in Louzhuang. Does anyone know what actually happened?” Earlier, a man in Anhui Province was also jailed for five days for saying casualties from a traffic accident he witnessed were 16 instead of the 10 reported. In Henan Province alone police have investigated 463 cases and made 131 arrests since mid-June, according to officials cited by Caixin, a business magazine.
Internet policing is carried out by the Network Supervision Brigade, under the Public Security Bureau. Chinese Internet authorities have set up a website encouraging the masses to report those who spread “rumors.”