Reuters reports on an announcement from the Ministry of Public Security that 15,000 have been arrested for “jeopardizing Internet security” amid the Xi administration’s ongoing drive to tighten control over cyberspace:
Police have investigated 7,400 cases of cyber crime, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website. It did not make clear over what period the arrests were made, but referred to a case dating to last December.
China launched a six-month program last month, code-named “Cleaning the Internet”.
“For the next step, the public security organs will continue to increase their investigation and crackdown on cyber crimes,” the ministry said.
The campaign would also focus on breaking major cases and destroying online criminal gangs, it added.
[…] In February, China’s internet watchdog said it would ban from March 1 internet accounts that impersonate people or organizations, and enforce the requirement for people to use their real names when registering online accounts. [Source]
For an account of the type of official-impersonating criminal rings mentioned above, see a report from The New York Times’ Didi Kirsten Tatlow and Patrick Boehler on a Beijing woman who saw her life-savings of 200,000 RMB stolen by fraudsters posing as police.
While rooting out malicious cybercrime and enhancing cybersecurity appears to be a legitimate government goal, the Xi administration’s steady rollout of online regulations has also done much to bolster Party control over online public opinion in recent years. In 2013, a campaign against online rumors was unveiled alongside a controversial legal means for punishment and a list of “seven base lines” for a clean Internet; in the months that followed over 100,000 Weibo accounts had been punished, several high-profile bloggers physically detained, and the social network’s once-lively discussion had noticeably chilled. Last year, the crackdown on Internet speech spread to popular messaging application WeChat, and a newly launched anti-vulgarity drive attracted criticism for being yet another measure for controlling online dissent. More recently, Internet sanitization has been in the spotlight: in June, dozens of Japanese cartoons were banned for being “lewd or violent,” and earlier this month the Ministry of Culture released a similar blacklist of obscene music, threatening “severe punishment” for any website hosting the forbidden songs.
A post from Beimeng Fu at BuzzFeed notes that online discussion of the 15,000 arrests suspiciously shows overwhelming support for the crackdown:
Phoenix New Media’s coverage of the crackdown on its website received over 100 comments. But every single one expresses support in a uniform tone: “Support the Public Security to ‘Clean The Internet’ in a long term, and be internet user’s patron saint!”
[…Mos]t of those that have been posted are like what user “Anti-espionage Sickle” said: “Firmly support internet cracking down on all sorts of opinions against China and the Communist Party, [let’s] punish them all and not tolerate even one.”
This has left Chinese internet feeling a little too quiet for the silence to be natural.
That’s especially concerning as this is closest thing to a differing opinion BuzzFeed News found throughout Weibo:
“It freaked me out, just reading the headline I thought those who are not respectful for the Party will be arrested,” the user wrote, followed by a side-eyed doggy emoji. [Source]