BEIJING - China has closed 42 websites and deleted more than 210,000 online posts since mid-March in a crackdown on “Internet-based rumours", state media said Thursday, amid a major political scandal.
The news, announced by the official Xinhua news agency in a brief report, comes as China is rocked by its biggest political crisis in decades with the purge of a top leader and the detention of his wife on suspicion of murder.
Earlier this week, Xinhua issued two shock announcements that Bo Xilai had been suspended from the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo and his wife Gu Kailai was being investigated over the murder of British national Neil Heywood.
The news came just one month after Bo – once tipped for the highest echelons of power – was sacked from his post as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, causing shock waves through China.
His sacking exposed deep rifts within the party – which normally likes to maintain a facade of unity – and various rumours began to emerge online about warring factions and even about a military coup in Beijing.
Authorities reacted swiftly and launched a crackdown on the Internet, which has so far resulted in the website closures and post deletions. Six people have also been arrested.
China operates a huge online censorship system in an effort to block information it deems sensitive, but the huge popularity of microblogs has posed a massive challenge as news is re-posted before censors can delete it.