China: The fear implied in a real-name internet

In China, the internet has become an important platform for citizens’ participation in policy making and criticism of officials. The freedom of the internet is largely guaranteed by the anonymity it offers users. However efforts to deprive the users of such freedom have never stopped. Not long ago, a young man in Shanghai was arrested because he accused his hometown government of corruption. The amazing fact is that the local police traveled hundreds of miles to Shanghai to hunt him down after identifying him as the blogger.

Now the authorities in Hangzhou seems to be taking these effort even further. The city congress has legislated that all local users, including bloggers, should register with their real names.

A post by blogger West-of-Lake-West is very popular on the internet these days. This blog entry detailed several articles in a regulation which was to be implemented on 1st May. The piece of law, passed by city congress, is named ‘Regulation on Protection of Computer Information and Internet safety’ (计算机信息网络安全保护管理条例).

In article 18, the blogger found that


The internet service providers must record the time, account, IP and telephone number of their users.

The blogger questioned:


I want to ask, if I am shopping for clothes in a department store , should I have to register my name, address and ID? Does that make sense? Give me a reason. Have you ever asked our opinion about this law?

He then posted online the article 19:


The providers of online Bulletin Board Systems, online games and other instant messaging services, must obtain the identification of the users. The services the regulation concerns include online forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards and blogs.

An article he found to be the most ridiculous is:


It is illegal to encourage the public to viciously comment on others, publish about others privacy, or commit personal attacks on others by alluding or imputation.

He made fun of the article:


I want to ask the experts how to define ‘viciously comment’ under the new law in a way compatible with the principle of legislation? I say, there is a bad, fat guy surnamed Wang in Hangzhou. Am I then alluding to the head of Hangzhou government who happens also to be fat and surnamed Wang?

Finally he said he would be considered as a criminal after 1 May, because


Take note, this post exactly violates the law! First I didn't register my information, second I encourage ‘vicious comment’ and third, I am alluding to a fat man. Someone says it is Wang A, another says it is Wang B and a third says its the Party Secretary Wang….so who is correct?


How could we live with this law? How could we speak up in the future? Are we allowed to criticize anyone? Who can guarantee our right to complain?


We ask for help from netizens all over the country.


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