Woman Is Arrested in Rape Rumor That Ignited Beijing Protest

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Correction Appended

BEIJING -- The Beijing police have arrested a woman for spreading online rumors in connection with the death of a migrant worker that touched off a rare protest in the Chinese capital on Wednesday, state-run media reported on Friday.

A 28-year-old Beijing woman surnamed Ma was arrested Thursday for writing on Sina Weibo, China's largest Twitter-like microblog service, that the dead woman had been raped by seven security guards at a mall t on May 3 and then jumped from the roof of the building, the police told China Daily.

Suspicion that the victim, Yuan Liya, 22, from Anhui Province, was raped and possibly thrown off the roof led to a protest by hundreds of workers outside the Jingwen mall in the Fengtai district of Beijing on Wednesday. The authorities responded with a huge display of force, with thousands of officers swarming the area, about four miles south of Tiananmen Square.

The police have said their investigation found no indication that Ms. Yuan had been drugged, raped or murdered and suggested that her death had been a suicide.

"We found no evidence she had been in contact with any strangers before the incident," Zi Xiangdong, a spokesman for the Beijing police, told China Daily. "There were also no suspicious signs discovered in checks at the scene or in the autopsy report."

In a statement posted online, the police said Ms. Yuan's family had not questioned their assessment.

The large, unruly demonstration near the heart of Chinese political power set off a rapid response from online censors, who blocked search terms that included Ms. Yuan's name and the name of the mall. A Beijing propaganda directive instructed microblogs to carry only the official police posts on the case and remove other comments, according to China Digital Times, a Web site affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, that covers Chinese media.

The popularity of microblogs has added further challenges to China's efforts to control the Internet. Last week, the State Internet Information Office announced a crackdown on online rumors. One target of the campaign is well-known Weibo users with millions of followers, known as "big V's" for the large letter V, signaling a verified user, next to their account names.

When journalists at the liberal Southern Weekend newspaper in Guangzhou rallied in January against increasing censorship, several "big V's" voiced support online, raising propaganda officials' concerns about the growth of popular and independent voices on social media.

On Friday, that online censorship eased somewhat to allow discussion of the case. Ms. Yuan's death was a leading topic on Sina Weibo, but suggestions of rape and murder were still being deleted. The trending term "Case of the Anhui girl who fell to her death" was appended with a notice that the police have said her death was not a homicide.

Correction: May 10, 2013, Friday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the district where a protest was held in Beijing. It was in the Fengtai district, not Fentai.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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