Restrictive governments burn the books they do not like and the world lost much value to oppressive regimes. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee has called for harsher sanctions for citizens guilty of criminal activities under the guise of religion and bad cultural influences on China’s net. This is understandable given the rise in radical islamic-based movements. My difficulty is the wording.
Extent of New Restrictions
The Standing Committee has governance over defence, finance, science & technology, culture, and religion. It has empowered the central government to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty. These include resisting interference of foreign powers in internal matters. It looks to it to prevent the spread of harmful information including in the social media on China’s net.
Opposition Jumps to Defence of China’s Net
The new measures define national security as a state in which China’s economy, government, population, sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and society are relatively safe and not subject to internal and external threats.
“This would restrain the freedom of online speech even more, stifling voices critical to the government,” political commentator Zhang Lifan has warned Beijing. We have already seen some excesses in terms of restrictions on China’s net on the anniversary of Tiananmen Square.
Standing Committee Members Fight Back
National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Zheng Shuna responded in a fighting mood, stressing, “any government will stand firm and will not leave any room for disputes, compromises and interferences when it comes to protecting their core interests”. It seems abundantly clear she is not envisioning appeals and protests.
Is This the End of Social Media Freedom?
It is certainly not the beginning of a process to stifle China’s net. This is the second phase in which the unofficial rules of internet suppression come into play, and censors further threaten freedom of social media expression on China’s net.