Target: Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Goal: Stop arresting internet users for posting rumors
The Chinese government has been denying the right to free speech on the Internet by arresting users who spread false rumors. The goal of putting a stop to the spread of false information does not have to mean arresting those who reported it. The government could simply rebut false information instead of jailing people for having published it on the Internet.
In many cases, the Internet users’ false “rumors” did not deserve any reprimand because they have not caused any harm to anyone. A man who apparently exaggerated the number of casualties in a traffic accident did not really deserve to do jail time for what was essentially an error of numbers. He has not endangered anyone’s life or insulted anyone by offering erroneous numbers in his online posting. Similarly one woman’s question posted on a website had absolutely no negative impact on anyone’s life. She inquired after the details of a murder case that she heard about in a forum posting. A citizen who wants to learn more about a crime should not be considered himself to be committed a criminal act.
A request for information could only offend a society that intends to bar all discussion of criminality in order to suppress news coverage of certain unflattering events. That may indeed be the goal of the anti-rumor law: stopping netizens from revealing information that may somehow embarrass the Communist party. Online posts have already frequently outed corrupt party officials who have amassed ill-gained wealth by taking bribes. Just recently, such an official, Yang Dacai, formerly in charge of the work safety bureau in the province of Shaanxi, was arrested and convicted of corruption, in no small part due to the activism of Internet users who have snapped and shared photos of his collection of expensive luxury watches.
The Chinese government has been cracking down on activists like Xi Zhyong who have threatened to expose officials’ corruption by demanding that they expose their assets. This may be just part of the broader campaign to reign in Internet discussion that raises suspicion that some Communist party member or other has suspicious wealth that needs to be investigated.
China’s ruling class should not quash the discussions taking place on the social media and non-government websites and forums. The many of us who have benefited from the power of the Internet to share and exchange views and information should stand up for the right of the Chinese population to enjoy the same rights. Sign this petition to urge the Chinese government to not criminalize Internet postings.
Dear Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Chinese citizens deserve the freedom to be able to discuss online. It is a violation of their basic right to arrest them on ludicrous charges of spreading false information. No one suffers if citizens happen to post something that either reports erroneous numbers or offers a version of an event that is slightly distorted. Neither are questions about certain sensational events such as murders worthy of punishment.
Although discussion of power abuses by Communist party officials may indeed be embarrassing, there is better way of responding to such allegations than by cutting off civil discourse on the Internet. The government may just simply dismiss unverified information as rumors, qualifying the information as unsubstantiated and end it at that. This is the way that a mature society deals with falsehood on the web — simply by saying that the information is untrustworthy.
But putting people in jail for publishing information that is either false or not known to be true because no evidence to support it has been offered is an extreme government response to a minor problem. Gossip and false allegations made by people do not necessarily hurt anyone, but when people are arrested for speaking their mind, they are robbed of their freedom of speech and that is far worse.
[Your Name Here]
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