Teenager Arrested Under China’s New Online Defamation Law For “Provoking Troubles” Over Online Comments
Chinese police arrested a 16-year-old living with his grandparents in a 100-square-foot apartment. According to witnesses, law enforcement officials cuffed the youngster – who can only be identified as Yang due to his age – and hauled him away for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Formally, the young man was charged with “gross negligence and [calling for] citizens to protest.”
What prompted the arrest? Yang publicly questioned a police investigation involving the manager of a local karaoke bar. Apparently, law enforcement deemed the manager’s death a suicide, but after speaking with the deceased’s family, Yang believed he was murdered.
Three Years In Jail For Spreading Online Gossip?
Unfortunately for young Yang, his online missive on the matter was either re-posted over 500 times or seen over 5,000 times, because his remarks qualified for action under China’s new online defamation law. If the courts find Yang guilty of the charges, he’ll face up to 3-years in jail for spreading gossip on the Internet.
You may be thinking, “Who cares if this guy tweeted about his suspicions. I always post opinions.” And if you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re safe, because opinions are protected by the First Amendment. But things aren’t as open in China. In fact, the People’s Republic has some of the strictest online defamation laws in the world.
To put it bluntly: In China, if you say something that besmirches a public official, expect to be questioned.
Can You Publicly Criticize the Chinese Government If You Live in the United States?
If you live in the United States, you’re free to criticize the Chinese government, so long as you don’t lie. That said, just because statements are fair game at home, doesn’t mean they won’t cause legal trouble elsewhere.
What would happen if a Chinese court found you guilty in absentia? Thanks to the SPEECH Act, U.S. citizens are largely protected from foreign defamation damages, if the ruling doesn’t comply with stateside slander and libel laws.
Do you have legal questions about China’s new online defamation law or another international defamation matter? If yes, contact Kelly Warner Law.