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Chinese Parliamentary Sessions 2013

March 2013 sees the annual meeting of the two legislative and consultative bodies of China, where major policies are decided and key government officials appointed. The National People's Congress (NPC) is held in the Great Hall of the People in China's capital, Beijing, and with 2,987 members, is the largest parliament in the world. It gathers alongside the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various groups of society.

NewsChina
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

Critics fear NPC's new rules for digital information will stifle the internet

State media hail new regulations to protect digital information, but critics fear these will be used to silence dissent on online forums

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 3:56pm
 

The National People's Congress Standing Committee passed controversial internet rules yesterday that critics say will further rein in the internet's role as a forum for the free exchange of ideas and deter potential whistleblowers seeking to expose corruption.

The NPC Standing Committee said, however, that the rules would enhance the protection of personal information online and safeguard public interests.

The Decision to Strengthen the Protection of Online Information was passed without public consultation and after just one reading.

The new rules, which have the same legal effect as a law, ban the obtaining of personal digital information by theft or other illegal means, selling such information or illegally providing it to others.

State media have been trumpeting how the new rules will be used to shield internet users from harassing phone calls and fraud involving personal information.

But internet users and critics are concerned that the rules will enable stricter control of cyberspace by requiring the registration of real names whenever they sign up for internet access, a phone service or publish online.

In recent years, the internet has become a popular and powerful platform for people to vent their discontent about party officials' misbehaviour, targeting their extravagant lifestyles and extramarital affairs, the bullying of petitioners and possession of multiple properties. Such complaints have occasionally resulted in official investigations and sometimes the downfall of the officials involved.

Under the new rules, internet service providers will also be required to "step up the management of information published by their users".

Qiao Mu , an associate professor of communications at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said real-name registration would not stop online fraud but instead become a political tool for the government to exert control over the internet, especially after a recent spate of online exposés of corrupt officials.

"It's like a continuous reminder that big brother is watching you," Qiao said. "Apparently the new leadership do not like common people taking the lead in fighting corruption. They want to keep it in the hands of the party disciplinary body, with the internet being an ornament only."

He said the NPC must have considered the role played by social media in the Arab world's anti-government protests.

Li Fei , deputy director of the NPC's Legislative Affairs Committee, denied that the government was seeking to prevent the exposure of corruption.

"When citizens exercise these rights according to the law, no organisation or individual can use any reason or excuse to interfere, and cannot suppress them or exact revenge," he said, while adding that internet users must not harm the rights and interests of the state, society, or citizens.

Meanwhile, yesterday's meeting also decided to convene the first plenary session of the 12th National People's Congress on March 5. At that meeting top officials, including the country's president, will be appointed by the NPC.

The meeting also appointed Guo Shengkun, former party secretary of Guangxi , as the new minister of public security.

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This article is now closed to comments

lucifer
Of course they will, but people are forgetting the government's primary objective above all else - to keep the Communist Party in power as long as possible.
aureolis
It's pretty clear that the Chinese have no rights except the right to remain silent.
lucifer
That's nit a right, it's an obligation. If they want you to speak they can always beat it out of you…..
jenniepc
I agree with the registered user's real name, then the user will be responsible for his own words.. I make as well as read many comments in both American media as well as Taiwanese media and I realize that some Chinese commentators use Taiwan media as a tool to vent the poisonous emotions they have harbored inside.
I do not agree with Mr. Qiao Mu. Yes, using real name in the cyberspace may not completely stop online fraud but it will minimize. The name which I registered in the cyberspace is my real name and my opinion is always based on the fact that this may not be conducive to some government, but I never felt threatened. I recognize that the Chinese legal system may not relative to the United States as sophisticated and real-name registration, may prevent the online exposes of corrupt officials. Therefore, China must have a sound legal system to protect potential whistleblowers.
Jennie PC Chiang/江佩珍 12/28/12 美國

lucifer
Yes, but China has far from a sound legal system. One could argue that there is no legal system at all. Nobody wants to be retaliated against if they speak up and there is nothing to protect them if they do….you cannot have an internet or anything where everybody speaks the truth, especially your acceptable version of the truth. You seem quite naive.
newgalileo
The "new team" is showing two different faces: trying to clean up the rot in the system and adapting an improved public attitude while stifling more and more the Internet. It is becoming a real nuisance. Internet speeds are often back to the era of modem dialing and so many websites – important for daily work – are difficult or impossible to reach. Such as this one, SCMP. Try to come here from Beijing without a good VPN, good luck. Since SCMP changed it website design with platform-twitter and other links, grab lots of coffee and wait. Wait. Download speeds for my decrepit "2 MB fast internet": 4 kb/sec (our corporate mail system – sometimes "better", i.e. 50kb/s. Welcome to 2013 in Beijing.
tkruemmer
"....internet users must not harm the rights and interests of the state, society, or citizens." This is the exact problem. Corrupt officials are also citizens, they represent the sate and the society. As citizens and as state representatives they may see their "rights" and most certainly their "interests" harmed and therefore be entitled to take action.
Whistleblowing by its very nature must be anonymous, because it is more often than not people who are close to corruption who want to report.
maartsen
Nothing can "stifle the internet". We designed the internet so there are many different ways to achieve connectivity, in a day and age when not everything always worked. Whether the problem is a failed router, a crashed server, an overly protective parent, or an inquisitive government, there is always a way around it.

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