February 27, 2012 / 4:50 PM / 8 years ago

China sends man to labor camp for SARS rumor

BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in a north China city said on Monday that they have sentenced a man to two years of “labor re-education” for spreading rumors of an outbreak of the SARS virus in the city.

The man, surnamed Liu, was sentenced on Sunday to labor re-education “in accordance with the law,” according to a police statement in Baoding city in Hebei province. The announcement was published on the Baoding public security bureau’s website.

Liu worked as an administrator for a website and in a bid to improve traffic spread “false information” that a Baoding hospital had confirmed a case of SARS, the statement said.

“The false information ... had an impact and disrupted the social order,” the statement said.

In 2003, Chinese officials covered up the spread of “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced the government to reveal the epidemic, apologize and vow full candor in future disease outbreaks.

The disease, which emerged in southern China in late 2002, spread rapidly from south China to other cities and countries in 2003. Over 8,000 people were infected and 775 died.

In the latest incident, China’s health ministry denied that SARS had resurfaced in Hebei after Hong Kong’s health authorities asked them to ascertain the rumor, Hong Kong’s Department of Health said last Thursday.

Several people were hospitalized in a Baoding hospital for a common cold virus called an adenovirus, China’s health ministry said last Saturday, adding that it had ruled out SARS and avian flu as the cause.

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