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China Arrests 5 Men for Spreading False News Online, Xinhua Says

Chinese Venture Capitalist Wang Gongquan
Venture capitalist Wang Gongquan in Beijing on July 31, 2013. Photographer: Simon Denyer/The Washington Post

Five men in China’s Hunan province have been arrested for allegedly spreading false information online in a blackmail scheme targeting government officials, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing local prosecutors.

The head of the group, Ge Qiwei, falsely claimed he was a news reporter and “blackmailed cadres with negative news,” Xinhua said. Ge confessed to the charges, which involved millions of yuan as he spread the use of the system to cities outside of the province, Xinhua reported, citing the Hengyang city prosecutors.

The men were arrested under a measure introduced last month aimed at stopping so-called online rumors that has also been used in an ongoing crackdown against dissent on China’s social media websites.

Wang Gongquan, a venture capitalist who had millions of followers on his Sina Corp. microblog account and who supported activists calling for greater disclosure of officials’ assets, was formally arrested on charges of assembling a crowd, his lawyer said yesterday. Police in China’s western Xinjiang region arrested 110 people for spreading online what the Xinjiang Daily said Oct. 8 was religious extremist ideology.

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