Local legislation on "human flesh searches" issued

"Human flesh searches" (人肉搜索) is an idiom that describes tracking down and publishing on the internet personal information of those whom - according to internet mobs - have engaged in immoral behaviour. More detailed information about this phenomenon is available here, here, here and here.

Various provisions in Chinese law protect privacy, but legislation on the protection of personal information is still in the making. The drafting of a law on the protection of personal information 个人信息保护法 was proposed in 2003. (The full text of the proposal is available here). NPC delegates suggested that this practice be regulated under the criminal law, but their proposal has met with controversy.

Addition of a paragraph on privacy protection to art. 253 of the Criminal Law (opening, concealing or destroying correspondence) has been suggested. But provisions of art. 253 would apply only to personal information obtained by employees in carrying out their duties, or in the course of providing services.

Unsurprisingly, legislation about "human flesh searches" has been passed by local level governments. Yesterday the Xuzhou People's Congress has issued the Regulations on Protection of Computer Information Systems Security (徐州市计算机信息系统安全保护条例). According to the Regulations, those who disseminate personal information through the internet or other means of communication will be punished with a 5.000 yuan fine. If circumstances are serious (情节严重), they will not be allowed to use the internet for a maximum period of six months (how are they going to do this, I wonder). Internet cafès will have their business licence suspended or revoked. The Regulations will entry into force on June 1, 2009.