Offence to defame China's 'heroes, martyrs'

Military delegates leaving the Great Hall of the People (GHOP) after the closing of the Fifth Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China,
on March 13, 2017.
Military delegates leaving the Great Hall of the People (GHOP) after the closing of the Fifth Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China, on March 13, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING • Chinese lawmakers have introduced amendments to the country's nascent civil code to make defaming "heroes and martyrs" of the ruling Communist Party a civil offence, as the leadership moves to strengthen its grasp on the history of the People's Republic.

China's ongoing National People's Congress (NPC), an annual meeting of some 3,000 delegates, is currently debating general rules for a civil code. The rules are expected to be passed by the event's close tomorrow.

Delegates made 126 changes to the most recent draft of the rules, released last Wednesday, which will serve as a preamble to the final code, expected in 2020, state media said.

One addition is the line: "Encroaching upon the name, portrait, reputation and honour of heroes and martyrs harms the public interest, and should bear civil liability."

The deeds of revolutionary heroes and sacrifices of military martyrs are central to the Party's legitimacy, much of which is based on claims of great historic achievements, such as defeating Japan during World War II.

HOW TO STOP THE SLANDER

Some people use distorted facts and discrediting libel to maliciously slander and insult the honour and reputation of heroes and martyrs... the social impact is very bad, rules should be imposed in response.

THE NPC'S LEGAL COMMITTEE, on information that sows seeds of doubt about the Communist Party.

Academics who offer different interpretations of history which downplay the role of the Party and its heroes are labelled "historical nihilists".

President Xi Jinping has emphasised the need for the Party to have faith in its own version of history, pointing to the Soviet Union's collapse as a warning about what can happen if revolutionary leaders are denounced.

The Party warned last year that a flood of online information is causing people to doubt it and said it could do more to rebut "wrong" points of view.

"Some people use distorted facts and discrediting libel to maliciously slander and insult the honour and reputation of heroes and martyrs... the social impact is very bad, rules should be imposed in response," the NPC's legal committee said, according to a report yesterday by the official Xinhua news agency.

The ongoing compilation of the civil code, which will form the basis of all China's future private laws once passed, is seen by some legal reformers as a test of how far China will go in allowing civil liberties that might impinge upon state power.

Lawyers have said that previous drafts of the preamble fail to make significant progress on protecting individuals from state encroachment for longstanding issues like property rights and the right to personal freedom.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Offence to defame China's 'heroes, martyrs''. Print Edition | Subscribe