Police detained a woman on Wednesday suspected of creating and spreading false information, after she allegedly hid her son and reported him missing to police on Friday in Yueqing, Zhejiang province.
The 33-year-old woman, reportedly in bad relationship with her husband－who was doing business in another city－made up the incident to test whether her husband cared for her and their son, police said in a statement on Wednesday.
The father believed his son was missing and posted on social media on Friday that he would give a reward of 500,000 yuan (S$99,500) if the person who took the boy returned him, and he would not press charges.
The mother, surnamed Chen, reported to police at 7:13 pm on Friday that her 11-year-old son, surnamed Huang, had got lost on his way home from school that afternoon, and police started an investigation immediately, according to the statement.
Massive police resources were devoted to the search, and many people in the city also contributed, the statement said.
Police found the boy at 10:48 pm on Tuesday and confirmed he was safe and healthy. After an investigation, they found the incident had been created by the boy's mother.
At about 6 pm on Friday, Chen had met her son after school and asked him to hide in a car that she had prepared beforehand with some food. After that, she called police and asked for help via social media.
Netizens in the city shared the notice and many joined the search. Chen moved the vehicle several times until it was found by police, according to the statement.
Police said in the statement that the woman's behaviour betrayed the faith and conscience of society, wasted a lot of resources and disturbed social order.
"Children are innocent and pure. Families and society should create a good environment for their healthy growth, instead of harming them because of one's own willfulness, and creating, believing or spreading rumours," the statement said.
According to China's Criminal Law, suspects who intentionally spread fake information on the internet or other media that seriously disturbs public order could face prison time of up to three years.