China introduces new law to ban ‘slander’ of members of armed forces

·3-min read

China’s top lawmaking body has passed new legislation banning the defamation of military personnel as the country seeks to bolster the standing of its armed forces.

“No organisation or individual may in any way slander or derogate the honour of servicemen, nor may they insult or slander the reputation of members of military forces,” the draft legislation read, according to a report by the state news agency Xinhua.

The report said that the legislation, approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Thursday, allows prosecutors to act if the slander seriously affects soldiers’ “performance and missions”.

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The new Law on the Protection of the Status, Rights and Interests of Military Personnel states that a soldier’s honour is for life, and extends the same privileges to members of the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary force.

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The legislation adds to an array of legal tools that already ban defamation of revolutionary “martyrs”, including revisions to the country’s criminal code and a 2018 Law on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs.

At the start of the month a popular blogger, Qiu Ziming, was jailed for “slandering” troops killed in a clash along the Indian border last year. The 38-year-old had questioned the official account of the incident, including the number of Chinese casualties.

Twenty Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese soldiers were killed in the clash, which happened almost a year ago in the Galwan valley. While both militaries have stood down their forces since the clash, more than a dozen rounds of talks between the two sides have yet to reach a resolution.

Blogger Qiu Ziming was jailed for questioning the official account of a deadly incident on the Indian border. Photo: 163.com
Blogger Qiu Ziming was jailed for questioning the official account of a deadly incident on the Indian border. Photo: 163.com

In April a US permanent resident who was wanted in China over his comments about the clash was also arrested while changing flights in Dubai.

Wang Jingyu, a 19-year-old Chongqing native, was accused of violating the 2018 law and was released last month after human rights activists and US diplomats intervened.

Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor and Hong Kong-based military affairs commentator, said the new law was meant to bolster the People’s Liberation Army’s sense of mission, adding that the legislation also covered service families.

“Previously, our legal instruments were not complete and this new law will provide more comprehensive protection for the rights and honours of our soldiers,” Song said.

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“The purpose is to give our soldiers a sense of mission in defending the country ... so they will not have to worry about what would happen to their family when they are doing their jobs,” he said.

“[We must recognise] that military conflicts in the future could be very intensive, and ensuring that the military is well respected in society is very important.”

Additional reporting by Guo Rui

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