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China Warns Military To 'Ignore' The Internet As Coup Rumours Persist

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China has warned its armed forces to ignore the Internet after rumours of a possible coup spilled out of control ahead of a leadership transition later this year.

The military newspaper Liberation Army Daily told its readers that "factors affecting stability will significantly increase" as the power shift takes its course.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will step down this year as part of a scheduled 10-year power rotation designed to minimise the possibility of instability.

"This is a year of special significance to the party and to national development," the paper said in a front-page article.

"History has shown that whenever the party and the country are facing a major event, whenever reform and development are at a crucial stage, the ideological struggle tends to become more acute and complex."

It also called on the Chinese forces not to be "confused" by rumours.

Soldiers must "resist the incursion of all kinds of erroneous ideas, not be disturbed by noise, not be affected by rumours, and not be drawn by undercurrents, and ensure that at all times and under all circumstances the military absolutely obeys the command of the Party central leadership" it said.

Last month the internet was rocked by rumours of a military coup in Beijing connected to the downfall of Bo Xilai, a politician connected to 'New Left' of the Communist party and the Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang.

It later emerged that the rumours were almost entirely without foundation, and that several faked pictures of tanks on the streets had been circulated on social networking sites in China before the authorities were able to cope.