Chinese police crackdown on radiation rumour mongers

A netizen, surnamed Chen, in Hangzhou of East China's Zhejiang province was taken in custody for 10 days and fined 500 yuan (USD 76) by local police for spreading rumours online leading to salt rush, state-run China Daily reported today.

Working at a computer company, the 31-year-old man posted a hoax on a local online forum, saying that the radiation leaked from the Fukushima plant had polluted the sea off China's east coast. He asked people to store salt and dried kelp and stay away from seafood for an year, which caused panic among the people, the report said.

Earlier, rumours about iodine in salt being able to stop radiation sickness spread across China, causing panic buying of the typically plentiful product. Chen said he received the false information when chatting with a friend online.

In Shanghai, the local police said that two men will be faced with prosecution for spreading rumours stating that the city will be severely contaminated by the nuclear leak in Japan. A university professor, however, said insufficient release of reliable and timely information by the government contributed to panic.

"The panic perhaps could have been avoided if the government had released enough reliable information in response to the recent series of disasters in Japan," said Qiu Liping, a professor in the sociology department at Shanghai University told the daily. He added that food safety is perhaps the largest concern in China at present.
"The public feels anxious because it doesn't receive enough scientific knowledge," Qiu said.

A related rumour spread on the Internet on Sunday said that a man from Cixi, in Zhejiang province, died from eating too much iodised salt which was, however, denied by the local authorities.

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