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Spreading online rumours in Guangdong gets serious, leads to a woman’s suicide

Posted: 09/18/2013 5:40 pm

China is cracking down on online rumour-mongering, and this could be one reason why.

A woman in Huizhou is on trial for provoking a suicide with defamatory rumours that she spread, Guangzhou Daily reports.

Mrs. Li, 29, pleaded guilty in Huicheng Court of falsely claiming on the QQ page of a Ms. Hao that she was having an inappropriate affair. She pleaded guilty Monday (Sept. 16) to spreading the rumours that caused Hao to jump off a building.

It started in 2010 when Li met Hao over the internet. On May 14 this year, Hao said something about one of Li’s friends that she thought disrespectful so she got upset.

That evening, she went to an internet bar in Huizhou’s Zhongkai District and created a QQ account with the name “恨你” (hate you). She wrote on Hao’s QQ page false claims about how she lived a depraved and promiscuous lifestyle.

The speech bubble is the contents of Hao’s suicide note, image courtesy of Guangzhou Daily

Hao was later found dead and her suicide note read: “I don’t understand. Who hates me so much? What have I done wrong?”

Li admitted in court that the claims of promiscuity and depravity were unconfirmed rumours that she had heard.

Hao’s family is demanding 750,000 RMB in compensation. Li said she wants to pay it back but does not have the money and is unlikely to earn it if she goes to jail.

China is in the midst of a crackdown on online rumour-mongering, which is most likely targeted at those spreading political rumours.

According to Reuters:

People will be charged with defamation if posts online that contain rumours 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.

An interesting article was also published this week in “An Optimist’s Guide to China” about online rumour-mongering.

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