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September 24, 2017

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China blogger sorry for 'rumor-spreading': court

BEIJING -- The first person to stand trial in a Chinese crackdown on "Internet rumors" confessed his guilt and made a lengthy statement of remorse Friday, even thanking his detention center, the court said.

Qin Zhihui is among hundreds of bloggers arrested in a government-backed campaign to assert greater control over social media which has seen influential critics of Beijing paraded on state television.

Prosecutors at Beijing's Chaoyang district court said Qin had "impacted society and seriously harmed social order" by "creating and spreading rumors," with his targets on Sina Weibo, the country's version of Twitter, including celebrities and China's former railways ministry.

The campaign against Internet rumors, which began last year, appears to be part of a concerted effort by China's ruling Communist party to rein in criticism that undermines its grip on power.

Chinese microblogs have become key drivers of public opinion in recent years, with bloggers drawing attention to official corruption, pollution and other issues.

"I wish this could be a warning to everyone," said Qin, according to quotes posted on the court's Weibo account.

"I wish everyone would cherish the free space on the Internet, and be a pillar of society. I am an example that you should take a warning from," added Qin, who was known as "Qinhuohuo" online.

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