March 31, 2012

Chinese authorities have shut 16 websites and detained six people accused of spreading rumours of unusual military vehicle movements in Beijing after the political downfall of a senior communist party leader.

Photo: Tencent's microblog site displays a warning that comments have been shut down until April 3. (

Authorities closed the websites for spreading rumours of "military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing," Xinhua news agency says, citing a spokesman with the State Internet Information Office (SIIO).

The spokesman said that two popular microblog sites also had been "criticised and punished accordingly".

The March 15 ouster of Bo Xilai as party chief of the inland city of Chongqing, who was linked to a scandal involving a senior aide, has shaken China's communist party as it readies for a top leadership change later this year.

After Mr Bo was sacked, popular microblogs, including those run by Sina and Tencent, were awash with speculation about a government coup.

Xinhua says Sina and Tencent have shut the comment functions on their popular microblog sites from March 31 to April 3 to "clean up rumours and other illegal information spreading" through the site.

On Saturday, Sina's Weibo users could still make posts, though other users could not respond.

Beijing-based microbloggers had previously been ordered to register their real names by mid-March or face unspecified legal consequences.