A total of 197 people have been arrested in China for spreading rumors online about the recent stock market crash and fatal explosions in Tianjin, according to state news agency Xinhua.
A journalist and stock market officials are among those arrested, Xinhua said. It gave no other details.
Chinese shares fell by nearly 8% after a week of volatile trading that spread fear to global markets.
The Tianjin explosions killed 150 people – with 23 still missing.
A total of 367 people remain in hospital after the August 12 blast at a Tianjin warehouse where large amounts of toxic chemicals were stored. Twenty are in critical condition, according to Xinhua.
Separately, the UK’s Financial Times says Chinese leaders feel they mishandled their stock market rescue efforts.
The publication, quoting an account of a meeting of senior regulatory officials on August 27, said the government had decided to abandon attempts to boost the stock market and instead step up efforts to punish people suspected of “destabilizing the market”.
Chinese authorities tightly control information online and have previously prosecuted internet users for spreading rumors.
The rumors described by the latest statement include reports that a man had jumped to his death in Beijing due to the stock market slump and that as many as 1,300 people were killed in Tianjin blasts, Xinhua said.
The news agency said “seditious rumors about China’s upcoming commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II” were also among the offences.
A journalist was also arrested along with several stock market officials, according to a Xinhua report. The journalist, Wang Xiaolu, is accused of “spreading fake information” about the market slump, the report said.
Xinhua said Wang Xiaolu confessed that he “wrote fake report on Chinese stock market based on hearsay and his own subjective guesses without conducting due verifications”.
In 2013 China introduced a possible three-year sentence for spreading rumors – the sentence was supposed to apply to anyone who posted a rumor that was reposted 500 times or viewed 5,000 times.
Tianjin explosions’ death toll has risen to 44 as more than 500 people were injured.
Twelve firefighters were among the dead, China’s official Xinhua news agency said as it reported a doubling of the death toll following two major explosions in the northern port city.
The blasts happened in a warehouse storing “dangerous and chemical goods” in the port area of Tianjin.
The explosions caused a huge fireball that could be seen from space.
Buildings within a 1.5 miles had windows blown out, office blocks were destroyed and hundreds of cars burnt-out.
Images on Chinese media showed local residents and workers fleeing their homes, some of them covered in blood from broken glass and flying debris.
As of 12:00 local time, 44 people had died and a total of 520 people had been hospitalized, including 66 in a critical condition, Xinhua reported.
The first explosion occurred at about 23:30 local time on August 12, followed seconds later by another, more powerful blast and a series of smaller explosions. The impact could be felt several miles away.
The China Earthquake Networks Centre said the magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of detonating three tonnes of TNT, while the second was the equivalent of 21 tonnes.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said a shipment of explosives had detonated but this has not been confirmed.
Senior managers of Ruihai Logistics, which owns the warehouse where the explosion happened, are being questioned by authorities, state media report.
China National Radio also said cracks were visible in buildings near the site of the blast.
Several tower blocks near the port area are without power, CCTV added.
Tianjin, home to some 15 million people, is a major port and industrial area to the south-east of the Chinese capital, Beijing.
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