China: Netizen detained for “spreading rumor”

A netizen Xiong Zhongjun has been detained by Hubei police for questioning the identity of a car accident driver on the Internet. The 10-day detention started on 21 of August according to Xinhua report.

The car accident, which led to the death of a young man, took place in Hangzhou on 7 of May 2009 and the driver was identified as Hu Bin, a young man with wealthy family background. It had attracted attention from all over China as the police report on the car speed was different from eye-witness account and circumstantial evidences. Moreover, very often, drivers of fatal car accidents could easily get away from criminal charges because of corrupted police practice. In this particular case, netizens were determined to act as watchdogs by digging up the driver's background, analyzing the actual car speed and following up every single detail of the police report and the court case.

In July, the court found Hu guilty and sentenced him to 3-year imprisonment. However, many netizens believed that the person who attended the court was not the real Hu Bin. They analyzed the video tape on the night of the accident and compared that with the tape from the court. Some of them called for a DNA test to prove Hu's identity.

Instead of giving evidence to prove Hu Bin's identity, the Hangzhou government released a video in which Hu was talking face to face with his teachers and reporters about his regret concerning the car accident. And the police started to take action against netizens who had “spread the rumor”.

On 24 of August, the Xinhua news reported that Hubei police had arrested Xiong Zhongjun who had been blogging about the incident and questioning the identity of Hu from July 20 to August 2. The report said that Xiong had disrupted public security by spreading rumors and the Hubei police would detain him for 10 days according to existing police regulation.

As so many bloggers and netizens had written about the case, blogger Zhang Hongfeng decided to turn himself and two other bloggers Cheng Dalin and Yao Xiaoyuan in, who were more influential than Xiong. Zhang is now collecting a list of bloggers who are willing to turn themselves in.

Of course, this is an action to protect against the Hangzhou police whose initial report on the car speed had outraged the public in the first place. Who had disrupted public peace and security? The police or the bloggers? Zhang Hongfeng asked.

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