Ah, the Global Times, unapologetic apologists for the worse vagaries of the Chinese state. On Saturday the paper published an editorial defending the recent ‘anti-rumour monger’ campaign entitled: ‘Crackdown ‘protects free speech’.’
“There has been some misinterpretation by the media,” said the official, adding that the new rules only target the spread of rumors and will not affect normal online discussions.
The official further rejected the idea that the new ruling oppresses freedom of speech.
“Cracking down on online rumors helps protect freedom of speech. Rumors will destroy our cyberspace. No country in the world would allow such a thing,” said the official.
No country in the world would allow a 16 year old to be retweeted 500 times and not lock him up.
“There is a clear line between questioning and creating and spreading rumors. If you know something that is untrue and you purposely bring it up in the form of questioning, that too will be seen as defamation,” said [law professor Hong Daode].
The latest campaign, jointly launched by the Ministry of Public Security and other government bodies in order to crush online crimes, has resulted in the detention of hundreds of people.
Under Article 246 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, defamatory speech is a criminal offence in China. Even the UK, which has pretty terrible libel legislation of its own, doesn’t prosecute people for making defamatory statements.
Arresting people for allegedly defamatory statements ≠ upholding freedom of speech.
The editorial goes on to say that it is “misleading to say Xue Manzi, a Weibo celebrity, was arrested for his outspoken online speech.”
No, of course, Charles Xue was just coincidentally arrested during a concerted crackdown against Weibo celebrities, and then just coincidentally had to repent on CCTV for his postings online despite being detained on solicitation charges.
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, made pretty clear the motivation for Xue’s arrest in a (hastily deleted) tweet:
We cannot exclude the possibility that authorities were using prostitution to entrap Xue Manzi. It is an unspoken rule that all governments worldwide frame political opponents through sex scandals, tax evasion charges. So here’s a reminder to those who engage in political dissent, if you wish to go down this path, keep your butts clean. If you have shortcomings yet still take on officials, you’ll be squashed sooner or later.