China Starts Arresting Internet Users for Insulting the Police

Qu Yuquan. Photo: Harbin police Weibo.

This post was written by Catherine Lai and originally appeared on Hong Kong Free Press on Feb. 2. The version below is published under a partnership agreement.

In recent weeks, police in China have been arresting Internet users who share messages that insult law enforcement officials. According the Radio Free Asia, at least six people have already been detained. Two of these individuals were reportedly arrested on Jan. 28, for mocking a police officer killed the night before in the line of duty.

Qu Yuquan, a 38-year-old police officer in Harbin, was attacked while responding to a bar brawl on Jan. 27, according the local police station's Weibo social media account. After being taken to the hospital, he later succumbed to his injuries.

After the news went out on Weibo, a user named lukehcen0 posted a message that officials say “insulted the police officer who sacrificed his life and incited violence against the police,” according to the Legal Evening News, a newspaper published by the Communist Party.

“His actions violated the country’s Public Security Administrative Punishments Law,” the report said. The Weibo user was taken in for questioning, in a coordinated effort between police in Beijing and Guangzhou, under the direction of the Ministry of Public Security.

Another man with the Weibo handle “Changchun Social Sister” also posted comments insulting Qu. Police arrested him on Jan. 30, and he's already confessed to the act, according to reports.

Lukehcen0's offensive comment was a response to an unofficial announcement of Qus’ death on the Harbin police department's Weibo page, which read as follows:

經過反復核實,在馬上開播春晚時,我們分局某所民警出警時被5名男男女女活活打死,還不到四十,他是我一批兄弟的師傅,是孩子的父親,是父母的兒子,不知道他們對警察有什麼深仇大恨?此事詳情目前我不能說,請大家等待哈爾濱巿公安局官微消息,只是作為一個民警真的很想哭!走好,我的戰友。

I double-checked. […] a police officer from the [Harbin] station was beaten to death by five men and a women while on duty. He wasn't even 40 years old. He was a police instructor, a father, and a son. I don't understand why they hate cops so much. I can't reveal too much now, please wait for the official press release by the Harbin Public Security Bureau. As a police officer myself, I really want to cry. Farewell, my fellow officer.

Lukehcen0 shared the text above, adding this comment:

凡打殺公安者皆為英雄,點贊

Anybody who beats or kills police are all heroes👍

Weibo user “Changchun Social Sister” added her two comments respectively after two posts, one written by a state-affiliated journalist, one written by Qu's fellow officers, Webio user “Kangde-Crazy”:

每次放假回來都對我特別好的叔叔,女兒才三歲… 大年三十晚上發生這種事,剛才在醫院看到他父母哭到幾次昏厥,老太太抱著我一次次的哭孩子,我心裏真的難受的特別厉害!希望各位理解警察這個高危行業,不要給自己和社會添麻煩!同時保護好自身安全,人好健康比什麼都重要!

[His] daughter is just three years old… how can such tragedy happen during a family holiday? [He has in mind the Lunar New Year] I just saw his parents crying in the — they almost fainted. The oldest cried while holding me. I felt so bad. I hope the public understands that working in the police is a very risky occupation. And please don't cause problems for yourself or for society. Please be careful. Wellbeing is what's most important.

Changchun Social Sister commented:

啊哈,太好了,他的女兒沒人保護了,大過年的,遭報應沒?:)

Great, his daughter has no one to protect her. It’s New Year's, haven’t you gotten your retribution? [note: Chinese believe that when bad thing happened during happy event means the heaven is punishing the person for his/her wrong deed.]

In another post, Zhang Ye, a state-affiliated journalist, criticized public intellectuals for not mourning for Qu:

大年三十的夜晚,一個民警在出110警務時,被暴徒殺害了。絶大多數人發出譴責的同時,公知沉點了,少數噴子則幸災樂禍。這些泯滅基本良心的人想過沒有,舞廳鬥毆警察該不該出警?如果是自已被欺,是不是第一個想到110?沒有秩序的混亂社會,有安全嗎?

Before New Year's, a police officer was beaten to death while on duty, responding to an emergency call. Most people condemned the act, but public intellectuals were silent. Some bad mouthed and even made fun of the incident. Did they ever consider that the police needed to respond, even the call came from a bar? If you were bullied, wouldn't you also call 110 [China's emergency hotline]? If society has no order, how can there be safety?

Changchun Social Sister responded:

得了吧,報警根本沒用。這年頭,少在給警界美化啦。不要自己給自己洗白,這充其量就是黑吃黑,火拼!這麼急著洗白,是不是想多撈些撫恤金?

Enough bullshit. There is no use calling the police these days. Stop making excuses for the police. Don't whitewash yourself — the incident was a crossfire between dark forces. Are you whitewashing for higher wages?

The disrespect for the fallen police officer outraged many Chinese social media users, and police in Guangzhou and Nanning launched immediate investigations into the outbursts, after various individuals alerted the authorities, according to reports in China's mainland media.

The two Weibo accounts responsible for the offensive comments are no longer accessible.

A Weibo user named Wu Bin told Radio Free Asia, an international broadcasting agency funded by the U.S. government, that he thought the controls in China on online speech are becoming stricter.

There is no feeling of safety when speaking on the internet, a police car could come to your door and take you away at any moment… I don’t think he [lukehcen0] was inciting violence against police, he was expressing his own viewpoint, he felt that the police are not good – everyone has the right to express their own viewpoint.

Public anger over police brutality in China flared last April, following the death of a young environmentalist in police custody.

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