BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China’s best known online commentators appeared in state media on Sunday to admit to spreading irresponsible internet posts after China adopted tough measures to crack down on online rumors.
People will be charged with defamation if posts online that contain rumors are visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation issued this month by China’s top court and prosecutor.
That rule, which could lead to three years in jail, is part of a recent government efforts to rein in social media, increasingly used by Chinese people to discuss politics, despite stringent censorship.
Detained Chinese-American venture capitalist Charles Xue, known for making controversial remarks on social and political issues, told state broadcaster CCTV and the official Xinhua news agency that “freedom of speech cannot override the law”.
“My irresponsibility in spreading information online was a vent of negative mood, and was a neglect of the social mainstream,” Xue said.
Xue, also known as Xue Manzi, had 12 million followers on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog site. He was shown on state television in August after being detained on an accusation of visiting prostitutes.
Police are now investigating reports from Internet users that Xue’s online activities may have involved crimes, Xinhua said.
Several foreign and Chinese executives, detained for various reasons, have made confessions recently on state television leading to worry in the business community about a trend that some lawyers say makes a mockery of due process.
Confessions have long been part of China’s legal landscape but rarely have senior business figures been put on television in prison jumpsuits to confess.
Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel