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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese businessman has confessed to posting false information online and deleting critical microblog posts for corporate clients, the official Xinhua news service reported on Friday, as a government crackdown on social media gathers pace.
The news agency said Yang Xiuyu, owner of media marketing company Erma, who is on trial in Beijing, confessed to paying staff to post false information and delete critical posts about clients in exchange for more than 530,000 yuan (£51,624) between 2008 and 2013.
He also confessed to making scandalous online content to advertise products and promote clients, including a video that purportedly showed a monk cavorting with two women which became an online sensation.
Many Chinese companies have proven willing to pay to manipulate the media to protect their reputations and to slander competitors, a business opportunity that has been exploited by media firms, individual reporters and entrepreneurs like Yang.
Chinese financial regulators have also prosecuted micro-bloggers for spreading online rumours about companies in order to hurt their stock prices and create buying opportunities.
The Chinese government itself deletes online posts it considers overly critical, blocks the accounts of dissidents, and hires microbloggers to post content favourable to government.
The crackdown on social media, which has included requiring users to register public accounts on instant messaging tools under their real names and the detention of hundreds of outspoken microbloggers, has discouraged political discourse as well as user registrations at messaging app companies.
The government says such moves are designed to prevent the spread of rumours, stop crime and remove pornographic content from the Internet.
In a separate report, Xinhua said a senior Internet executive wanted on suspicion of spreading online pornography had been repatriated to China.
Wang Xin, general manager of Shenzhen-based online video service Qvod Technology Co., Ltd., fled China after the government said in May it would punish the company for carrying pornographic material, Xinhua said.
"After interrogation, Wang confessed to knowingly ignoring pornographic videos stored on his company's servers for the sake of profit," the report added.
It did not say to which country he had fled.
(Reporting by Pete Sweeney; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Clarence Fernandez)