Freedom of speech further stifled in China

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, Oct 6: Further stifling free expression online, China has now validated collecting and using online information from chat history and social media posts in courts as criminal evidence.

The latest regulation issued last month by Chinese authorities states that both private messages and public comments on social media sites can now be used as criminal evidence against defendants in court. It went in effect from Oct 1.

Users of Chinese social networking applications such as WeChat, Weibo, QQ and the like may now have to be cautious before saying anything critical of the communist regime.

14593633_1277318018979272_905277973_nThe two regulations published earlier about collecting online information, 2015 Civil Procedure Law of China and Article Seven in the 2005 Electronic Signature Law states that messages received or stored on electronic platforms can be presented as evidence in court. But the latest regulation specially names brands like microblogging site Weibo and Moments, a Facebook Newsfeed-esque feature on WeChat, and notes that private online communications like instant messages and group chats remain subject to scrutiny, reports, Oct 5.

The regulation, jointly issued by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security, states that courts will collect electronic data to investigate legal cases, defining the term as including but not limited to websites, blogs, micro-blogs, Moments, forums, cloud storage services, text messages, emails, instant messages, group chats, and related communication messages.

Registered online identities, electronic financial transactions, log-in records, text documents, pictures, videos, electronic certificates, computer programs, and other related electronic documents also fall under the electronic data that can be collected to be used as evidence in the courts.

“We should all speak with caution from now on. Don’t call for freedom of speech, there is no such thing in our country. Common people can’t do anything other than be slaughtered like a fish,” the report quoted Weibo user Frank Lee as saying.