Five people in Jieyang, Guangdong province, who spread rumors about people in the city being kidnapped and having their organs removed have been arrested, Nanfang Daily reported yesterday.
The Jieyang public security bureau said the rumors were posted online a few weeks ago.
Nanfang Daily said that according to the rumors, traffickers in human organs were patrolling the streets in a van looking for possible victims.
They snared their victims using large hooks, it said.
The rumors caused panic in the city and put police on high alert, the newspaper said.
Some schools told students to return home in groups after classes or wait to be escorted by their parents.
Police visited 21 schools, seven hospitals and interviewed about 1,000 people, but found no evidence of any kidnapping.
They then turned their attention to the Internet and on Thursday identified five people, four local men and a woman who had posted the rumors.
The five said they had heard stories of the kidnapping and the removal of organs and decided to post them online line as it would attract attention to their website.
If convicted, the five could face jail sentences of up to five years for disturbing the peace.
On Saturday, a man surnamed Chen told police his cousin was chased by people in a van who tried to catch him with a hook.
He later admitted the tale was a work of fiction and was given 10 days in detention.
(China Daily October 29, 2008)