China Passes New Law Banning 'Defamatory' Speech About Military, Police

Observers say the ban represents further tightening of controls on what can be said in public.
2021-06-11
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China Passes New Law Banning 'Defamatory' Speech About Military, Police This undated handout photograph released by the Indian Army on February 16, 2021 shows People Liberation Army soldiers and tanks during military disengagement along the Line of Actual Control at the India-China border in Ladakh.
AFP

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has passed a law banning "defamation" or "insults" to military personnel, following the jailing of a blogger for posting about People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers during border clashes with Indian troops.

The standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the law on Thursday, banning organizations or individuals from "slandering or derogating the honor of servicemen [and women], nor may they insult or slander the reputation of members of the armed forces," state news agency Xinhua reported.

Police officers and members of the People's Armed Police are also included in the ban.

Any "infringement of the legitimate rights and interests" of military personnel seriously affecting their performance of their duties is also covered by the new legislation.

Honors obtained by a soldier are to be enjoyed for life, while schools are required to teach "the glorious history of the PLA and the heroic and exemplary deeds of soldiers."

The law comes after blogger Qiu Ziming, who had more than 2.5 million followers on social media, was jailed for eight months for "defaming martyrs," the first case since changes to the law earlier this year banning insults or defamation of revolutionary heroes and martyrs.

In September 2016, a blogger was asked to make a public apology after he challenged the story of Qiu Shaoyun, a soldier in the Korean War (1950-53).

Catering to the military

Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops faced off in June 2020 at three or four locations in the western Himalayas after Beijing’s forces intruded into Indian territory, according to Indian security officials and local media.

China denied intruding into Indian territory near the Galwan River in the mountainous Ladakh region.

Indian and Chinese troops later disengaged from the southern and northern banks of Pangong Lake, in an operation begun on Feb. 10, 2021.

Jiangsu legal scholar Qian Qinxue said the CCP is keen to improve the status of military and law enforcement personnel, as it is likely to rely on them more and more in the coming years.
 
"The CCP has been boosting the status of military personnel for some years now, raising salaries and setting up a department to ensure social security for veterans," Qian told RFA.

"This is an inevitable response to the increasingly serious political crisis faced by our authoritarian regime," he said, adding that the inclusion of the police and armed police was significant, as they are likely to be called in to keep the CCP in power if needed.
 
"The riot police and the counter-terrorism police perform a similar role to the armed police, and are deployed during major mass incidents," Qian said.

"[The army] would only be involved in actions to preserve the regime in special circumstances, such as [the suppression of the student-led democracy movement of] 1989," he said.

All about control

Zhejiang-based writer Sun Dasheng said the new law increases controls on public speech and freedom of expression.

"This is all about wielding comprehensive power and control over the whole of our society, especially over our speech and our thoughts," Sun said.

"They want to control people's mouths and brains," he said.

He said the CCP has become far more open about its attempts to control public speech.

"They used to arrest people secretly, but now they are making public announcements with great fanfare, to scare people," Sun said.

The social media platform WeChat quickly moved to warn account-holders that they would face a permanent ban if they violated the new law.

It said censors would be cleaning up accounts "spreading historically nihilistic and erroneous remarks, malicious distortion, defamation, as well as those denying party history, national history or military history."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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