Internet celebrity Charles Xue, a Chinese-American venture capitalist who was frequently critical of the Chinese government, has confessed to spreading misinformation through his blog posts. According to a lengthy interview that aired on state television after Xue was arrested for hiring a prostitute, Xue was only criticizing the government in order to fuel his vanity.
"My irresponsibility in spreading information online was a vent of negative mood, and was a neglect of the social mainstream," Xue said, according to the translation by The Guardian. He is alone in the interview, seated in the corner of a nondescript room with white slatted walls. He does not appear to be under duress, although it seems likely that he was either pressured or incentivized after being arrested for something completely unrelated.
“It gratified my vanity greatly," he said, according to the Washington Post. “I got used to my influence online and the power of my personal opinions... and I forgot who I am.”
The confession comes as the Chinese government cracks down against dissent on social media. Last week, the country passed a law aimed at squashing "rumors" online. Posts deemed to be rumors that are widely read can now be punishable by up to three years in prison.
Online "rumors" are now punishable by up to three years in prison
Xue, who grew up in China but is a naturalized American citizen, was known for being critical of the Chinese government and raising questions about the country's social problems. He wrote about the accuracy of the national debt, child trafficking, the conspiracy theory that officials are putting contraceptives in the water, and other issues. He has amassed more than 12 million followers on the microblogging site Weibo.
After his arrest, he praised the new anti-rumoring law. “Without regulation, there’s no punishment for spreading the rumors,” he said, according to the Post's translation. Xue's last post was on August 23rd.