China comes down hard on IP infringement, virus-related crimes

Security officials marching after the second plenary session of China's National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the country's top prosecution body presented its annual report yesterday.
Security officials marching after the second plenary session of China's National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the country's top prosecution body presented its annual report yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Between February and last month, the Chinese authorities arrested 3,551 people for crimes relating to the Covid-19 outbreak, the country's top prosecution body said in its annual report yesterday.

Most of these were crimes involving face masks, protective equipment and medical treatment, said the report presented by the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) at a session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament.

Of those arrested, 2,521 had been prosecuted, the report noted, adding that this was the SPP's contribution to controlling the outbreak.

In February, the Chinese authorities intensified crackdowns on companies infringing intellectual property (IP) rights. This came after unauthorised manufacturers were found putting 3M labels on face masks, which were in high demand.

Last month, over 85 per cent of IP infringement cases involved counterfeit or sub-standard face masks, the SPP had said then in a separate statement.

Within the same period, 2,829 people were prosecuted for crimes relating to improper waste disposal or flouting wildlife laws, yesterday's report said. Prosecutors will continue to come down hard on corruption this year, but also focus on those breaking Covid-19-related as well as wildlife laws.

"(We will) standardise the procuratorial work of public interest litigation and actively and safely handle public welfare (cases) in the fields of industry, public health, protection of women's and children's rights, online abuse and poverty alleviation," said SPP Procurator-General Zhang Jun when presenting the report to the NPC.

At the same session, China's top court said it would continue to place more emphasis on IP rights in the coming year and protect both foreign and local businesses.

The lax implementation of IP rights has often been a bugbear of foreign firms doing business in China.

In presenting the report of the Standing Committee of the NPC, Politburo member Li Zhanshu said the body, which will flesh out the details of any law implemented in China, has "extremely onerous tasks" on the legislative agenda.

This includes the national security legislation for Hong Kong, which was announced last week.

"We must balance quality and efficiency, endeavour to make our legislation more thoughtfully designed and precisely targeted, and follow through with every piece of legislation put forward," said Mr Li.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the draft law on Thursday. It will most likely go through.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'China comes down hard on IP infringement, virus-related crimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe