By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, FEB 11: Seven Tibetans have been detained on the charges of “spreading rumours” about the novel Coronavirus threat, reports Radio Free Asia (RFA). Chinese officials have cracked down on discussions online about the rising number of the novel infectious virus. They have detained seven people in Chamdo prefecture on the charges of spreading rumours and misinformation, according to the Chinese state media.
A netizen named Chen from Chamdo’s Gonjo County had posted a comment online stating that people from mainland China were arriving in secret which led to “causing panic among Chamdo netizens,” People’s Daily reported on Feb 5. Chen was taken into custody followed by 10 days’ detention period along with a fine of 500 Yuan (more than 5000 rupees).
A man identified as Tse was also detained in Chamdo’s Tengchen County for posting a message on his WeChat handle; it asks the readers to recite a prayer 10 times and requests all to forward the message to 10 more in order to guard oneself against the virus. “The Tengchen County Public Security Bureau punished the man with a term of administrative detention of seven days, according to the law,” the report said.
“The posting of information and remarks online must comply with relevant laws and regulations,” the county’s Public Security Bureau warned in a notice in the state-controlled paper, urging locals to not “create rumours, believe rumours, or spread rumours,” and to create a “clean and harmonious cyberspace.” A Chamdo resident confirmed the report to the RFA, “Seven people have been detained for allegedly spreading disinformation.”
Meanwhile, a tea-shop owner in Lhasa was discovered to have opened his shop in defiance of a Jan 28 government order closing all discos, cyber cafes, tea shops, and movie theatres, a source in Lhasa told RFA. On Feb 5, the owner opened his shop and was later “fined according to the law for violating the government ban.” There is a rising number of infected people from the novel virus, and Chinese citizens and Tibetans alike have been frightened by the rapid spread of the disease.
As of Tuesday, the death toll of the virus reached 1,018 with only two deceased outside of China in Philippines and Hong Kong, and the number of infected jumping to 43,104 people worldwide.