The South China Morning Post reports on two Chinese writers who were detained and accused of “defamation and picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (诽谤罪、“寻衅滋事罪 fěibàng zuì, “xúnxìn zīshì zuì) for online “slurs” about the giant dairy company Yili.
- The two writers, Zou Guangxiang 邹光祥 and Liu Chengkun 刘成, were arrested at their homes in Beijing by police officers from Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, according to Xinhua (in Chinese). Yili’s headquarters are in Hohhot.
- Liu, a former journalist, is accused of posting to WeChat a “fictional” story about a company very similar to Yili. The “fictional” company is run by a chairman similar to Yili boss Pan Gang 潘刚. Based on Liu’s story, Zou posted to his WeChat public account that Pan had been detained recently when he returned to China from the U.S.
- Liu’s and Zou’s posts went viral on March 26, and on the same day, Yili’s share price fell by more than 3.5 percent. Yili’s response has been to state that Pan had been in the U.S. receiving medical treatment, but that he continued to participate in regular decision making and important meetings while abroad.
- “Starting and spreading rumors: fame and profit by making a WeChat public account go viral” is how Xinhua characterizes Liu’s and Zou’s work (造谣传谣：让公众号“火”起来以博取名利 zàoyáo chuán yáo: ràng gōngzhòng hào huǒ qǐlái yǐ bóqǔ mínglì).
- The arrests “came after an official inquiry into the case, which also triggered a national outcry over Beijing’s ever-tightening grip on people’s right to free expression online,” according to the SCMP.