Beijing’s police chief warns government critics on web

Beijing’s police chief has threatened “severe punishment” against Internet users who “attack” China’s Communist Party, raising fears of an intensified crackdown on freedom of speech ahead of a sensitive political transition.

Fu Zhenghua (傅政华), the chief of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, made his comments earlier this week at a meeting regarding a recently announced month-long government campaign to “clean up” the Internet.

Fu said “Those who make up and spread political rumors, attack the Party, and government leaders and the system will receive a public warning or severe punishment according to the law.”

The Party-controlled Global Times said Fu did not specify what constitutes a political rumor or attack, and noted that some Chinese web users are concerned that the “clean-up” campaign is an attempt to mute online criticisms of the government.

The report comes a day after Chinese authorities announced they have arrested over 10,000 suspected online criminals and erased 3.2 million “harmful” online messages since a wide-ranging campaign against cybercrimes was launched in March.