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Chinese Teenager Accused of Spreading Rumors Online Arrested

A 16-year-old boy was taken away by Gansu police in China over comments the student made online questioning the official explanation of the recent death of a local worker.

Yang Hui, pseudonym used in major social media platforms, was detained on September 17, 2013, taken into custody while he was studying in a classroom at his junior high school. Police accused the boy of spreading rumors and thus provoking public disorder on several Chinese social media platforms, including Sina Weibo and QQ Space, with his comments. Under new rules in China, Internet users who share false information that is defamatory or harms the national interest face up to three years in prison if their posts are viewed 5,000 times or forwarded 500 times.

The Gansu police claimed that Yang's tweets which have been retweeted 500 times have incited people to demonstration. Image from Sina Weibo.

The Gansu police claimed that Yang's comments, which were shared more than 500 times, have incited people to demonstration. Image from Sina Weibo.

The posts that caused Yang trouble were comments about the unnatural death of a worker in Jewel Time International Karaoke TV (KTV) in Zhang Jiachuan. The man, whose surname was Gao, was found dead in the KTV on September 12. The police claimed that Gao committed suicide, but his family and friends questioned the police's investigation.

Below are the back up [jpg, zh] of Yang's posts on Sina Weibo. On September 14 at 19:19, after he witnessed a confrontation between police and Gao's family outside the KTV:


It seems it is necessary to protest. What happened to Chinese police? What happened to the society? The police were holding shields and rods. What were they doing? Family members of the victim were detained and those who took photos were also detained. WTF. You don't want the world to know what had happened? What are you afraid of? I am not afraid of you. I took pictures, arrest me, I dare you. May the dead rest in peace.

On September 15 at 21:40, Yang wrote:


The legal representative of Jewel Time International KTV (the crime scene) is Su Jian, the deputy head of Zhang Jiachuan people's court. With so little salary, how can the deputy head of a tiny county afford to invest in KTV, a company that is worth a few million yuan? Is there a secret? How come legal representative Su Jian has not come out to explain the incident? Let's wait for the truth to be revealed. We can't trust the county and city Party committee, but we still have the provincial and central Party committee…

On September 20, the public security bureau of Zhang Jiachuan published an official statement [zh] via Weibo saying that Yang's posts have led to speculation, protest and public disorder.

However, many netizens have questioned the police's action. Zhou Nan (@周难的微博) raised [zh] the question:


What evidence did the Gansu police use to prove that the mass incident [on September 14] was related to the junior high school student's posts?

Jiujiu Yide (@久久一得) was [zh] very angry:


A junior high school kid can incite the public? The Gansu police are brain-damaged! Release the kid or the public will be outraged. The police should apologize and give compensation.

Lawyer Duo Muqing stressed [zh] that the boy had done nothing wrong:


Some legal experts are ambivalent about the arrest of a junior high school kid in Gansu. Some say even if the kid is wrong, the police should not exercise their power to criminalize him. Instead, this is the arena of education. Such comments have created a lot of confusion and should not come from people with legal background. I want to stress that the boy has done nothing wrong and should not be educated. He should be praised and the police should be educated and punished.

Many laughed at the over-reaction of the police. “Cicada sings all night” (@一夜蝉鸣V) quoted an online comment:

关于甘肃某县初中生杨某散布谣言被刑拘一事,网友评论: 一个孩子的一句话就能颠覆你们,你们的政权是纸糊的还是沙堆的? 你们捉的是谣还是妖? 也有网友认为这是个利好的消息:现在它们连初中生都怕了,证明日子快了

Concerning the arrest of the junior high school student by the Gansu police, netizen comment: Some words from a kid can subvert you? Is state power made of paper or sand? Are you catching rumors or ghosts? Another netizen comment: This is a good news: Now that they are afraid of junior high school kids, the day is near.

“Brother Star PK dogs” (@大话星哥pk一群狗) echoed:

坏消息:他们连初中生都抓; 好消息:他们连初中生都怕。

Bad news: They arrested a junior high school kid; Good news: They are afraid of junior high school kids.

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