Defamation Laws In China

China defamation laws
Slander and Libel Laws in China

The Chinese government does not mess around when it comes to defamation. Unlike the majority of “Western World”nations, people found guilty of slander or libel, in the People’s Republic, can find themselves behind bars — for a long time.

Criminal Defamation in China

Articles 87 and 246 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China criminalizes defamation. The penalty is imprisonment, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.

In 2015, the Chinese government passed an arguably oppressive online defamation law. According to

“[People in China] who fabricate or disseminate false information about crises, disasters, epidemics or emergencies on social media or other media platforms may be sentenced to up to three years imprisonment if their actions result in social disorder. 

Rumours with grave consequences could lead those spreading them to be jailed for up to seven years.”

The State Has A Lot of Control Over Print Media

It’s worthy to note that China’s publishing regulations state that the government directly controls the amount, structure, distribution and coordination of nearly all print publishing in the country. No one may publish their opinions in China without first receiving permission from the government.

Chinese Officials Mitigate Defamation By Enforcing Strict “Censorship” Rules

In addition to requiring Chinese citizens to obtain government permission prior to exercising freedom of expression –both online and off — Chinese authorities severely restrict reporting on political and social topics:

  • Websites may only publish news acquired from government-authorized sources;
  • The more important a political or social topic is, the stricter the government permission requirements are;
  • Discussion of some topics, like the lives of China’s leaders, is completely off limits to all but a select group of publishers;
  • Foreign parties are strictly monitored and restricted from engaging in publishing;
  • All Chinese publishers have a “government sponsor” and a “government manager” looking over their shoulders.

Defamation in China is a tort of strict liability and claimants must meet the elements of defamatory meaning, identification and publication.

China Defamation Defenses

Truth is a basic defense for defamation China. Additionally, the “right to criticize” and “official report privilege” have been established to immunize the media from liabilities to some extent.