Beijing: Brushing aside criticism against tough, new measures to stop the spread of rumours through microblogs, China today defended the move claiming that the new rules had broad support among Chinese internet users.
"China`s internet is not a space outside the law. It is also subject to laws and regulations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing when asked about the criticism from human rights activists that it is designed to control the freedom of speech.
"The actions taken by the Chinese government on the internet have been highly supported by Chinese internet users," he said.
China Monday issued new rules under which Internet users could be jailed for up to three years for re-tweeting posts containing defamatory content.
People who post defamatory comments online in China will face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted, an official judicial interpretation issued here yesterday said.
The document, released by the Supreme People`s Court (SPP) and the Supreme People`s Procuratorate, stipulates that people will face defamation charges if online rumours they post are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or re-tweeted more than 500 times.
The measures were seen as an attempt to stifle the growing Internet openness in the form of microblogs, challenging the monopoly of official media.
China at present has over 300 million microbloggers, the highest in the world.
If those posting rumours are repeat offenders, or if their online rumours caused victims or their relatives to commit self-mutilation or suicide or experience mental trauma, they may also face defamation charges.