China's major microblogging sites have suspended comments sections after being "punished for allowing rumors to spread" of a coup attempt in Beijing, state-run media reported Saturday.
Sina's Weibo and Tencent's QQ -- Chinese versions of Twitter, which is banned in the mainland -- will stop use of comment function on the popular sites to "clean up rumors and other illegal information spread through microbloggings," according to Xinhua.
The comments sections will be disabled until Tuesday. The microblog sites have been "criticized and punished accordingly" by officials in Beijing and Guangdong, state media reported.
Authorities also closed 16 websites and detained six people, Xinhua reported, for allegedly spreading rumors of "military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing," a spokesperson for the State Internet Information Office told Xinhua.
An unknown number of people who also reported rumors were "admonished and educated" but "have shown intention to repent," Beijing police told state media.
China's Internet was rife with rumors of an alleged coup attempt last week after the shock dismissal Communist Party politburo member and Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai earlier in the month. Cyberspace discussions on Bo's fate have been censored.
On Weibo last week, bloggers who type in Bo's name, or even his initials BXL and homophones, typically got an automatic reply: "Due to relevant regulations and policies, search results for 'Bo Xilai' are not being displayed."
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Zhang Zhi An, an associate professor of journalism at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, says the government's actions are "not surprising."
"The government worries the information could have some mobilization functions, that it will make people worried about the stability of society," said Zhang who was attending a conference on microblog activism at Fudan University in Shanghai on Saturday. "The information that was posted hints that there is a very big struggle in the Central Party, and I think the Party can not accept this information.