Chinese Blogger Is Jailed for Posts About Train Crash

China sentenced a blogger to three years in jail on charges of defamation, the first person to be sentenced under a nationwide campaign to target people for spreading rumors.

Qin Zhihui, 30, known online as “qinhuohuo,” was found guilty of spreading rumors about several celebrities and for posting that foreign victims from a deadly high-speed train crash in 2011 got more compensation than Chinese, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court sentenced him to two years on defamation charges and another year for disturbing public order, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China’s government censors its Internet heavily, blocking websites such as Facebook and deleting postings on Weibo that it deems are a threat to social stability. The country’s top court said last year Internet users could face jail time for posting comments deemed defamatory that are viewed more than 5,000 times or retweeted more than 500 times, giving authorities a legal basis to put those who post rumors on trial.

Qin’s actions impacted society and seriously harmed social order, Xinhua said, citing the court. It gave leniency because Qin confessed, Xinhua said.

The post about the July 2011 train crash in eastern Wenzhou that killed 40 people was reposted 11,000 times and commented on 3,300 times, Xinhua said.

Blogger Release

Separately, Chinese-American Charles Xue, who had 12 million followers on his Weibo account before being detained in August on charges of prostitution, was released on bail on medical grounds, Xinhua said late yesterday. A month after his arrest, Xue appeared on state television in handcuffs, apologizing for writing controversial posts on human rights and free speech.

“Freedom of speech cannot override the law,” Xue had said, according to Xinhua.

After being released yesterday Xue reposted his television interview on his Weibo account, according to screenshots of the account online. The post has since been removed.

Xue, 61, a U.S. citizen, who used the Internet name Xue Manzi, expressed regret over his actions, according to a statement carried on the state-run People’s Daily website. The more influential you are the more cautious you should be, he said, issuing a warning to other so-called Big Vs, those with many followers online.

“On what kind of things you can do, what kind of Weibo you can forward, what kind you can’t forward, you should have a strict concept of what is right and wrong,” he said. “If you have no self-discipline, you will be the next ’Xue Manzi.’”

Weibo Corp., the Chinese microblogging service owned by Sina Corp. and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., raised $285.6 million in its U.S. initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said. Chinese Internet companies have filed to raise a total of $2.8 billion New York this year, the most since the fourth quarter of 2007.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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