China encourages citizens to report critics via new 'snitch hotline' ahead of 100th birthday
China’s cyber regulator is encouraging people to snitch on each other for online speech critical of the ruling Communist Party or its official historical narrative ahead of the 100th anniversary of its founding.
Members of the public can ring a new hotline to report people who defame the Party, Chinese leaders, government policies, national heroes or “deny the excellence of advanced socialist culture,” according to a notice posted by the Cyberspace Administration of China.
People online “with ulterior motives” were “maliciously distorting, denigrating and negating the history of the Party,” said the regulator, which has vowed to crack down ahead of the Party’s centennial birthday in July.
Government censors routinely block foreign news and information online, and boost crackdown efforts ahead of historical anniversaries, political meetings and even sporting events to ensure political stability around major events.
Beijing considers people critical of the government and its policies to be damaging to the legitimacy of the Party.
Those who dare to criticise it, its leaders, policy or version of history – whether via private messages online or in public social media posts – are routinely sentenced to prison or subject to detention without having ever been tried.
They can also be blacklisted as troublemakers, potentially impacting prospects for employment and bank loans.
Chinese tech firms employ their own censors to scrub the internet as companies can face penalties if they fail to block content deemed sensitive by the authorities.
Just last week, local authorities in Jiangsu province detained a man who allegedly made “insulting” comments online about Japan’s 1937 occupation of Nanjing (or Nanking), when the Imperial Japanese Army forces brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
Last year, the late whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang was reprimanded by police for trying to warn colleagues via private online messages about a novel coronavirus before Chinese authorities announced the emergence of infections.
While in 2017, one man was sentenced to two years – later reduced to 22 months after a retrial – for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” after he called leader Xi Jinping a “baozi” or steamed dumpling online.