Three questioned for spreading toilet-paper shortage rumor: CIB

02/10/2020 08:21 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 10 (CNA) Three female suspects were questioned Sunday on suspicions that they spread a rumor of a toilet paper shortage in Taiwan, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said Monday.

Under questioning, the chief suspect surnamed Liao (廖) admitted she was responsible for starting the rumor, said Hsiao Jui-hao (蕭瑞豪), deputy chief of the CIB's 3rd Investigation Corp., at a press conference.

According to Hsiao, Liao said she read reports of the shortage of surgical masks and panic-buying in Taiwan amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic and was convinced that all products made of paper, including toilet paper, would eventually be in short supply.

The 60-year-old Liao, who works for a Kaohsiung-based direct sales company, therefore decided to urge her acquaintances via the Line messaging service to buy more toilet paper, sanitary napkins and kitchen towels from her company, according to Hsiao.

Two other suspects, both surnamed Chen (陳), who worked together with Liao, were also questioned about forwarding Liao's Line message on their respective Facebook pages, Hsiao said.

The case is now being referred to prosecutors to investigate the alleged violation of Article 63 of the Social Order Maintenance Act, according to Hsiao.

The act stipulates that those who are found to have spread rumors sufficient to undermine public order are subject to a maximum three days in detention or a NT$30,000 fine.

Taiwan's government had tried to dismiss the widely circulated rumor of a toilet paper shortage by saying that materials used in face masks and toilet paper are different and that supplies of toilet paper were abundant.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau said Sunday it had also found at least two people, surnamed Lin (林) and Huang (黃), suspected of spreading a similar rumor about a toilet paper shortage over the internet.

Judicial authorities are now investigating the spreading of the similar rumors, the bureau said.

(By Huang Li-yun and Joseph Yeh)

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