CHANGSHA - A Chinese man was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted of libel over trumped-up accusations of torture and abuse of power by two policemen on the Internet.
Hu Lianyou was convicted by the People's Court of Dong'an County, Hunan province, for his comments posted on popular websites including Sina.com since September 2010 against Dong'an county police chief Zheng Hang and one of his subordinates, Qin Liangbei, the court verdict said.
Hu's slander of police torture, corruption, and collusion with criminal gangs was "pure rumor" and has badly affected the lives of the policemen, their families, and the reputation of the police office, according to court officials, citing the plaintiff.
The policemen brought the libel suit before the Dong'an county procuratorate last July.
According to police records, Hu had been held at least twice by Dong'an police. He was detained for leading a mob to attack government offices in 1995 and for alleged drug trafficking in 2000.
At Tuesday's trial, Hu insisted that he was beaten up in police custody and after release locked up repeatedly for "illegal petition activities".
The court said Hu could appeal his sentence within 10 days after receiving the verdict.
Chinese authorities have been cracking down on online rumors. In the latest campaign, police have removed more than 210,000 online posts and shut down 42 websites since mid March.
People who spread rumors on the Internet in China risk breaking laws depending on the content of the posts, Liu Zhengrong, a senior official with the State Internet Information Office warned earlier this month. China's Criminal Law recognizes slander in crimes ranging from subversion of the state, spreading terrorist information, to libel, he said.
However, online posts regarding the corruption of government officials has helped China's anti-graft authorities investigate and solve such cases in recent years.
There are also several bribe-reporting websites in operation, though the practice remains controversial.
Tian Xiangbo, of Hunan University's Research Center for Clean Governance, told Xinhua that there may be some inaccuracies in online reporting, but argued that libel can only happen in cases where there is "clear, malicious intent."