An influential Chinese Communist Party (CCP) journal yesterday decried online speech critical of the ruling party and Chinese government, comparing Internet rumors to denunciation posters during former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) Cultural Revolution.
“There are some who make use of the open freedom of cyberspace to engage in wanton defamation, attacking the party and the government,” said the journal Qiushi, which means “seeking truth” in Chinese.
“The Internet is full of all kinds of negative news and critical voices, saying the government only does bad things and everything it says is wrong,” the journal said.
It said that online rumors were no better than than “big character posters,” handwritten signs put up in public places during the 1966 to 1976 Cultural Revolution to spread propaganda, often denouncing people and institutions as counterrevolutionary or bourgeois.
Qiushi said online rumors, like the posters, were often published under a cloak of anonymity and containing slanderous information.
Party leaders have called out for a halt to the posters “resurrecting themselves online,” it said.
Internet users can be charged with defamation if postings containing rumors are visited by 5,000 users or reposted more than 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation issued this month by China’s top court and prosecutor.
A detained Internet commentator, Chinese-American venture capitalist Charles Xue (薛必群), admitted to spreading irresponsible posts on Sunday and told state broadcaster CCTV and Xinhua news agency that “freedom of speech cannot override the law.”
The crackdown on rumors has sparked fears that government regulation will go beyond issues of defamation and clamp down on online speech critical of the government and the party.
“In truth, the work of the Chinese government has received wide praise all over the world, even public opinion in Western countries can’t deny that,” Qiushi said. “This is a great truth, and overly criticizing the government violates that truth.”
Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, is subject to censorship for sensitive topics, but remains a platform for Internet users to air criticism on political and social issues.