|Qin Zhijun, an alleged rumormonger, stood trial at the Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing, capital of China, April 11, 2014. Qin Zhihui, known as "Qinhuohuo" in cyberspace, was accused of creating and spreading rumors about several Chinese celebrities including popular TV hostess Yang Lan, as well as China's former Ministry of Railways, via Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, from December 2012 to August 2013, according to prosecutors. (Xinhua/Gong Lei)
BEIJING, April 11 (Xinhua) -- A man confessed to spreading rumors about Chinese celebrities and the government during his trial at Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing on Friday, accepting he made up stories and information to defame others.
Qin Zhihui, known as "Qinhuohuo" in cyberspace, was accused of creating and spreading rumors about several celebrities including popular television hostess Yang Lan, as well as China's former Ministry of Railways. He spread rumors via Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, from December 2012 to August 2013, according to prosecutors.
Qin's actions impacted society and seriously harmed social order, prosecutors said. He violated criminal law and should be punished for defamation and disturbing the peace, they added.
Qin, a 30-year-old native of central China's Hunan Province, was detained by police last August while working for a Beijing-based information company that provides online marketing services.
"I just wanted people to see what I had posted and make netizens discuss them," he told the court when asked by prosecutors why he spread the rumors.
He said he knew that his microblog posts would damage the reputation of their celebrity subjects.
"My acts were banned by law. Indeed, I misled the public about celebrities and government," he said. "There is freedom on the Internet. I crossed the red line and severely damaged the reputation of others."
Qin expressed his remorse for the great impact on the reputation of Yang and others. He said he hoped that netizens would not repeat his mistakes.
After a five-hour trial, the court said it will issue a verdict later.
To gain notoriety, Qin made up and spread a series of rumors, including one that the Chinese government had granted 200 million yuan (32.5 million U.S. dollars) in compensation to a foreign passenger who died in a bullet train accident in east China in 2011. The rumor was reposted 12,000 times within two hours and angered Chinese netizens.
Qin's trial has attracted much public attention.
"Rumormongers should be held accountable. They seek to serve their own interests by fooling netizens," said Wang Xiaojun, who works for a publication company in Beijing.
The spread of rumors has prompted the government to be more open and transparent, she added.
"Qin's case showed the Internet is never a lawless place and anyone who flouts a law must be punished," said a netizen with the screen name "haoshiyiduoduo."
Qin is the first person to appear in court on rumormongering charges since the Ministry of Public Security vowed to target those who spread online rumors last August.
Sine the crackdown began, police have detained a number of suspects. They include Dong Liangjie, an environmentalist who allegedly posted a large amount of unverified news on environmental pollution to incite public panic and promote his company's water filters, and Yang Xiuyu, founder of the Erma Company, for which Qin once worked.
According to a judicial interpretation issued by the country's supreme court and procuratorate in September, people will face defamation charges if online rumors they post are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or retweeted more than 500 times.
In China, people committing the crime of defamation face up to three years in prison or deprivation of political rights.