China Arrests 10,000 Suspected Of Internet-Related Crimes
Spring cleaning, Beijing-style
In just four months, the Chinese authorities have arrested over 10,000 people and broken up over 600 criminal gangs suspected of Internet-related crimes, according to official statistics from the Ministry of Public Security.
The arrests were made as part of a campaign targeting pornographic websites, arms dealers and merchants collecting and selling personal details online, devised to make Chinese cyberspace safe for minors.
In China, with over half a billion Internet users and at least 250 million microbloggers, the Internet has become an important channel for citizens to exchange information, express themselves and do business. However, the ruling Communist Party keeps a watchful eye over the network, fighting both real criminals and critics of the regime.
According to official sources, between March and June, 3.2 million “harmful” messages had been deleted from Chinese networks, 62 websites and online forums had been ordered to remove inappropriate content, and 30 Internet service providers were punished for granting access to unlicensed sites, reported Chinese news portal xinhuanet.com.
“Although illegal and harmful information on the Internet has been reduced sharply through intensified crackdowns, fraudulent messages are still seen occasionally… and some telecom service providers are not strict enough when managing websites,” said a statement from the Ministry of Public Security.
According to the BBC, Beijing police has also closed 263 Internet cafes as part of its effort to “protect the physical and mental health of young people” using the Web.
However, several analysts have suggested that the “spring cleaning” has much more to do with cracking down on political dissent, rather than actual crimes. During the campaign, the chief of Beijing police had warned that Web users who “attack” leaders of the Communist Party of China would be severely punished, the Global Times reported.
As part of the campaign, the police have set up platforms that make it easy to report offences on major microblogging sites. Very soon, microbloggers started asking the police chief to define what constituted an “attack” or a “political rumour.”
Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University who specialises in constitutional law, told Global Times that there are no criminal or administrative laws in China that prohibit people from criticising the government. On the contrary, Article 41 of the Constitution of China stipulates that citizens have the right to criticise or give suggestions to any government agencies or staff members, as long as they are not making up or twisting facts.
China is classified as the “Enemy of the Internet” in the latest Reporters without Borders mission report, and is described as having “the world’s most sophisticated online censorship and surveillance system”.
In April, Chinese authorities detained six people and shut down 16 websites responsible for “fabricating or disseminating online rumours” about a military coup, after the political downfall of one of the ruling communist party’s senior leaders, Bo Xilai.
Can you keep your identity private online? Take our quiz!