Blogosphere erupts with rumours of army coup


IT’S BEEN A strange week in China, full of rumours and speculation.

While always a gossipy place, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive since March 15th, when the Communist Party fired Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party secretary, after his police chief reportedly attempted to seek asylum in the United States.

Bo had been expected to take a seat on the standing committee of the Central Politburo, which basically runs China. The news of Bo’s sacking took its toll on the financial markets and shares in the Chongqing stock market fell sharply after the news broke.

Chongqing Brewery was down 8.2 per cent. Chongqing Changan car company was down 3 per cent.

The legions of microbloggers, embraced the issue with gusto. In the hours following the brief two-sentence official statement that Bo was gone, microbloggers posted millions of tweets about the causes and circumstances of Bo’s abrupt fall using the Chinese version of Twitter, called Weibo.

The Great Firewall of China cracked down on the speculation – with a number of websites taken down for a period of “maintenance” – but there have since been wild rumours of coups and of gunfire as the different factions at the top of the Communist Party fight for influence.

While there is no evidence of an actual coup attempt, there are certainly tensions at the top in China between those who want to match economic reform with political reform.

There have been rumours that the 38th Army was seen on Chang’an Avenue and that police and military vehicles were in front of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. There were pictures on some Weibo sites, although these turned out to be old.