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China Cautioned: “The Internet is Not Outside the Law”

On December 18, 2012 China's government backed People's Daily published an article on the front page titled “The Internet is Not Outside the Law”. The article said:

the internet is as much a tool of rumor and misinformation as a platform for information sharing, and everyone must be as responsible and law-abiding online as they are offline.

This piece was soon broadcast on China's state broadcaster CCTV. On the next day, People's Daily reinforced its opinion with another piece [zh]: “Internet Supervision in Accordance with the International Practice.”

Screen grab from CCTV news broadcast.

Both pieces are being seen as a warning to Chinese web users. Most netizens feel disappointed by the cautious note and are worried that there will be more censorship online in the future. Many netizens critized the articles with retorts aimed at the government. Below are some comments from well-known commentators and bloggers on Weibo, China's Twitter.

Vanishing hope

韩志国:蜜月期已经结束《人民日报》连续发表评论,矛头直指微博反腐。在一片期待和欢呼声中,我们又听到了磨刀霍霍。对微博上的各种声音,本可根据文责自负原则通过法律途径解决,而不必采取传统思维和传统方式。尽管社科院报告认为微博的可信度高于新闻联播,但微博的发展空间十分有限,不必过度意淫。

韩志国: The honeymoon period has ended, People's Daily pieces directly point at anti-corruption on Weibo. Among the expectation and cheers, we've heard the sabre-rattling. Various voices on the microblogging can be dealt with through the law instead of having to adopt the traditional way. Despite the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report that microblogging is more credible than CCTV news, the development and space on microblogging is very limited, so do not place high expectations on it.

大兵看世界:改革只是开始,还是即将结束!当我们寄托希望的时候,我们就要想到失望,只是希望失望不要来的那么快,微博不是法外之地,但希望不要将微博也变成只能歌功 颂德的平台!网络是新生的社会力量,它寄托了太多太多的希望,如果有一天,所有的希望都破灭了,那么还有什么希望呢?

大兵看世界:Is this the beginning of reform, or has it already come to an end? When we gather our hopes, we have to think of the disappointment and just hope the disappointment doesn't come too soon. Weibo is not outside the law, but I hope it won't become a platform to sing praise! The Internet is a new social force that has had too much hope placed upon it. One day, all hopes are crushed. What else can we hope for?

李庆松:这是要释放什么信号,监管,控制,还是封杀。难道这最后一条普通社会公民参与社会监督的阵线也要被政府无情抹杀。民主,这社会何谈民主,悲哀。

李庆松:What message does it deliver? Supervision, control, or censorship. [The Internet] is the last platform for an ordinary citizen to participate in social supervision. Will this be ruthlessly banned by the government? Democracy? How can we talk about democracy in this society? It's sad.

Aurora-trying_to_balance: 还如何言论自由?!刚有几个反腐案例 就有网络不是法外之地的声音!有几个人出来实话实说 新浪就立刻和谐!如此紧闭森严的新闻媒介和环境 中国人很难真正意义上的言论自由。

Aurora-trying_to_balance: How can we talk about freedom of speech? ! The piece came out right after a few anti-corruption cases online. A few people come out to speak the truth, then Sina immediately tries to harmonize! Under such tight control of news and media, it's hard for Chinese people to gain freedom of speech in a real sense.

Retorts at the Government

许小年: Facebook和Twitter在各国是什么惯例?

许小年:[If you follow international practice], what about the practice of Facebook and Twitter?[Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China]

赵楚 :不错,按照普世的现代法治原则,没有任何地方应该成为法外之地,但是,我想在 这里告诉央视和《人民日报》:各级党政的办公楼以及各种戒备森严的官家秘密场所,连同你们两家以公帑运营的媒体,更不应该成为法外之地。

赵楚 :Yes, in accordance with the rule of law, there is no area that is outside the law. But I'm here to tell CCTV and People's Daily: the government office buildings, as well as a variety of the heavily guarded secret places belonging to government officials, together with you two, state-run media, shouldn't be outside of the law.

贺江兵:对人民管治与国际接轨;对官员财产和非法行为讲中国特色;官媒这样如何取信于民?日报之后是不是会发表:《官员财产公开是各国惯例》《官场不是法外之地》。

贺江兵:When it comes to the control of people, they practice international standards; but when speaking of Chinese officials’ property and unlawful conduct, they talk about Chinese characteristics. With the double standards, how can a state run media gain the trust of the public? Will you publish another two pieces: “The Public Disclosure of an Official's Wealth is Accordance with International Practice” and “The Land of Officialdom is Not Outside the Law”?

Another interpretation:

琢磨先生:最近新闻联播和人民日报都强调:网络不是法外之地。意思就是告诫微博小秘书,公民有言论自由,不要轻易删帖,否则必将被追究法律责任。

琢磨先生:Recent CCTV news and People's Daily stressed that the internet is not outside the law, which is a warning to the microblogging watchers and censors: citizens have freedom of speech, please do not delete posts, or you will be held liable.

Although netizens are fully aware that censoring microblogs is a government initiative, they showed support for a satirical interpretation, one netizen wrote:

火星人草帽仔:这个理解真是乐翻天!苦中作乐

火星人草帽仔:Its understanding is so funny. Find happiness in adversity.

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