Online rumour riot in jittery China

2012-03-22 14:35
Beijing - Groundless rumours of a coup that have swept Beijing in recent days are a sign of nervousness after the sacking of political star Bo Xilai exposed rifts in China's ruling Communist Party, analysts say.

Bo had been tipped to join an elite group of leaders who effectively run China later this year, and his downfall - announced last week in a brief official dispatch - is the biggest drama to hit the Communist Party in years.

But the news has been only lightly covered by China's tightly controlled state media, opening the way for lurid online speculation involving a crashed Ferrari, gunshots and even tanks rolling into central Beijing.

"People are nervous, there's not much information available," Bo Zhiyue, an expert on Chinese elite politics at the National University of Singapore, said Thursday.

"They are hungry for new information, and if there's nothing new, they will make up new information."

Speculation

Bo, a flamboyant member of the Politburo - which groups the 25 most powerful politicians in China - was removed as party chief of the south-western metropolis of Chongqing last Thursday.

His sacking came weeks after his former right-hand man and police chief Wang Lijun reportedly tried to defect to the US in a dramatic event that remains shrouded in mystery.

The incident sparked speculation about Bo's future, but his sacking still came as a shock, as the party normally likes to maintain an appearance of unity, which it believes is crucial to preserving stability in China.

The state-run Xinhua news agency - which reported the news - gave no reason for Bo's ousting.

So far, the only official information on the subject has come from a brief statement by Li Yuanchao, a powerful party leader, last Thursday that gave no concrete information about the reason why Bo was dismissed.

Since then, rumours - all of them unverifiable and most of them highly implausible - have emerged to fill the void of official information.

Rumours of a military coup orchestrated by security czar Zhou Yongkang against some of the top leaders are perhaps the most fanciful.

Gunshots

These emerged earlier this week when netizens started reporting on micro-blogs that there were tanks on one of Beijing's main thoroughfares and that they had heard gunshots.

Security in the capital has not visibly increased.

An apparently official document that was posted online, alleging that one of Bo's family members was being investigated for corruption before he was sacked, has been given more credence.

The document - allegedly compiled by the party's highest authority - reveals Bo reportedly turned on Wang when the latter broke news of the probe to him, prompting Wang's escape to a US consulate to request asylum.

Even a deadly Ferrari crash in the capital has sparked intense speculation over the identity of the driver, after reports of the incident were censored online.

David Kelly, research director at analysis group China Policy, said top authorities were likely trying to contain the effects of Bo's dismissal - and the rumours.

"The problem is to deal with the aftershocks - the sudden emotional swings of the public mind," he said.

Search terms such as "gunshot", "tank", "Bo Xilai", "Wang Lijun", Bo's son "Bo Guagua" or his wife "Gu Kailai" have all been censored on Sina.com's popular micro-blog, or weibo.

"All this is saying that the factional struggle has now burst into the open," said Willy Lam, a China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Read more on:    china  |  social networks
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!

Nothing, and we mean nothing, will keep goalkeeper Scott Stirling from stopping the ball!

 
 

Men24.com

Hottie of the day: Jesselyn
This invention makes farts smell like chocolate!
11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The Moon has moved into your sign, emphasizing the need to connect things to work together. There is a tendency to focus too far...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.