Chinese university’s plan to screen students’ phones, tablets slammed by state media
- Guilin University of Electronic Technology should reflect on its actions and catch up on the meaning of the rule of law, CCTV article says
- Only after they are exposed by the media will the government pay attention to the campus rules that violate laws and regulations, newspaper says
A Chinese university’s plan to inspect students’ electronic devices for violent, pornographic or otherwise subversive material has been roundly slammed by state media.
Several critical commentaries have been published following an initial outcry over Guilin University of Electronic Technology’s plan to scrutinise phones, tablets, laptops and external drives over the course of this month.
An article published on the website of state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) this week described the incident as “turning back the development of rule by law”, as it violated the privacy of Chinese citizens.
China’s constitution states that people’s freedoms and privacy of correspondence are protected by law and cannot be infringed upon on any grounds except by public security agencies or prosecutors acting in the interests of national security or conducting a criminal investigation.
The college, in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, initially said that the checks would be carried out from November 7 to 23, but was quoted in a report published by Thepaper.cn on Tuesday as saying the process had yet to start and that it was rethinking its plan.
“What needs our attention is that the school was only discussing whether the notice needs revision. They don’t understand why it was so controversial,” the CCTV piece said.
“More importantly, the school needs to reflect on its actions and catch up on the meaning of the rule of law. Otherwise, even if the plan is aborted this time … there will be more bizarre policies in the future.”
An article published by the state-run Guangming Daily was equally critical of the device-screening plan and likened it to a recent incident at Pingdingshan College of Industrial Technology in central Henan province, where students were asked to use a standardised, approved format for their social media profiles and share daily posts from the school’s Communist Youth League.
“The cases share some similarities. A directive or notice is introduced off the top of someone’s head without any discussion of its legitimacy. It’s scary and worrisome,” the article said.
“Individuals on campuses have rights,” it said. “Freedom and secrecy of correspondence are the basis for the public’s safety in a society ruled by law … It’s natural for society to react when basic rights are suspended.”
The college in Henan later denied forcing students to change their social media profiles and attributed the controversy to miscommunication.
A report by Beijing Youth Daily, an official newspaper affiliated with the Communist Youth League, said the situation in Guilin was evidence of a lack of checks and balances at the university, and the outmoded dominance of its administrators.
“Only after they are exposed by the media will the government pay attention to the campus rules that violate laws and regulations,” it said.
“And apart from aborting the policy, no one will take responsibility for it. In the case of Guilin University of Electronic Technology, there won’t even be an apology.”
Education authorities in Guangxi said they had been in touch with the school but no further action had been taken.