China passed a new Internet censorship bill which will further prohibit criticism of the communist government, including anything that goes against “national honour”, “disturbs economic or social order”, or attempts to overthrow “the socialist system.”
The new bill also makes attempts at anonymous browsing illegal, requiring companies to verify their users’ information.
“This dangerous law commandeers internet companies to be de facto agents of the state, by requiring them to censor and provide personal data to the authorities at a whim,” said Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon.
Internet users in China currently face up to three years in prison for writing “defamatory messages” that are either reposted more than 500 times or are viewed more than 5,000 times.
“If online speech and privacy are a bellwether of Beijing’s attitude toward peaceful criticism, everyone -– including netizens in China and major international corporations -– is now at risk,” said Human Rights Watch’s China Director Sophie Richardson. “This law’s passage means there are no protections for users against serious charges.”
In August 2015, Chinese police arrested around 15,000 civilians for “internet crimes” during an operation code-named “Cleaning the Internet.”
Websites that provided “illegal and harmful information,” as well as those that included advertisements for porn, gambling, and firearms, were all shut down with their owners arrested.
In May 2014, Boxun senior reporter Xiang Nanfu was also arrested for writing about the country’s problem with human rights, including police brutality, state-authorized organ harvesting, and the act of burying people alive. The Chinese government cited the reason for arrest as Nanfu’s writing, claiming that his articles “seriously harm the country’s image.”