April 2, 2019 / 4:28 AM / 21 days ago

China central bank seeks police probe into false story on policy move

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s central bank is seeking a police investigation into the circulation last week on social media of what it called false information saying it had announced a cut in a key bank reserve ratio.

Headquarters of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, is pictured in Beijing, China September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

On Friday, private chat groups on China’s popular social media platform WeChat shared what appeared to be a paragraph pasted from a story by the official Xinhua news agency saying that the People’s Bank of China had announced a cut in the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), to take effect on April 1.

No such move had been announced.

Xinhua said it did not publish such a story and Tencent Holdings Ltd, which operates WeChat, did not have immediate comment.

“The central bank has officially sent a letter to the police for investigating the case and punishing those who have published false information,” the Finance News, a PBOC publication, said in a commentary on Tuesday that was reposted on the central bank’s official Weibo account.

The commentary said monetary policy moves are “by no means a trivial matter”, stressing even if the false information was intended as an April Fool’s joke, those who started it would face legal consequences.

“Although the rumors of an RRR cut have lost traction, we believe this does not mean that the relevant rumor-mongers can go unpunished,” it said.

China has been stepping up efforts to police potentially destabilizing content on its already stringently censored internet.

China has announced five RRR cuts in the past year to free up more cash for banks to boost lending to private firms, and further cuts are widely expected.

The central bank publication cited criminal laws that could see punishment of up to five years in jail for those who caused “serious consequences” by fabricating and disseminating false information affecting securities and futures trading.

“This kind of irresponsible behavior should not be tolerated, otherwise the rumors will continue to make waves in the market or become more daring,” it added.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Cate Cadell; Editing by Tony Munroe & Kim Coghill

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