China investigating phoned threats to 5 flights

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese police are investigating telephone threats that led to the grounding of five flights around the country on Wednesday, though officials said no planes were in actual danger.

The Civil Aviation Administration said in a news release that the threats constituted the crime of transmitting "false terroristic information" and suspects were being pursued with all available resources. It gave no details on the specific threats.

The flights were operated by Shenzhen Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Juneyao Airlines and originated in the cities of Shanghai, Lanzhou and Nanjing. The airlines declined to comment, although the official Xinhua News Agency said three of the flights made emergency landings following the threats that began at 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) and the others were delayed.

Transmitting "false terroristic information" is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, although a man convicted last year of phoning in a bomb threat to an airline received a sentence of four years.

China has undergone a massive expansion in air travel in recent years, and delays, poor airline service, and rude or drunken passengers lead to frequent disruptions and incidents at airports or on board flights.