Disparaging statements that degrade reputations would be punishable
Lawmakers are considering a measure that would punish people who say derogatory things about heroes and martyrs, after a number of such cases aroused public attention.
Those who libel or slander heroes and martyrs could face criminal punishment, and prosecutors could launch public interest litigation against violators, under a draft law that was submitted to the top legislature on Friday.
The draft would make government departments - public security, culture, civil affairs, industry and commerce, press and cyberspace - responsible under the draft for protecting the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs in their supervisory work.
It also stipulates that internet operators should respond quickly if they find messages demeaning to heroes; and occupying, defacing or damaging martyrs" memorials is strictly prohibited.
In recent years, there have been some erroneous trends of thought, and some individuals have distorted historical facts and slandered heroes and martyrs on the internet or in publications in the name of "academic freedom" or "restoring history", Xu Anbiao, deputy director of the Legal Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People"s Congress, said in explaining to the congress why such a law is needed.
"This has generated very negative social impact and caused public anger," he said.
In March, the NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese People"s Political Consultative Conference received suggestions from 251 national legislators and political advisers about drafting a law to protect the reputations of heroes and martyrs, Xu said.
A typical case occurred in 2013, when an internet celebrity Sun Jie joked about Qiu Shaoyun, a hero in China"s war against United States aggression in Korea from 1950 to 1953.
The story goes that Qiu, 26, was concealed in the grass on Hill 391 before a general attack, but a US incendiary bomb was dropped nearby. Instead of betraying his position and that of hundreds of fellow Chinese soldiers, he burned to death.
Sun mocked Qiu as "barbecued meat" in a post on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, to his more than 6 million followers. He deleted the post the next day due to public anger.
In April 2015, Hong Kong-based herbal drink maker Jiaduobao Group referenced the controversy again by promising in its own Weibo post to give 100,000 cans of herbal tea to Sun should he open a barbecue shop.
In September 2016, a court in Beijing ordered Sun and Jiaduobao to issue public apologies on five consecutive days to the family of Qiu for the offensive social media posts which the court said harmed Qiu"s reputation and honor.
"I think it"s meaningful that the draft law encourages people to learn and remember the spirit of heroes and martyrs instead of damaging the honor and reputation of their predecessors," said Yang Xiaojun, a professor of administrative law at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
He also said the introduction of public interest litigation in such cases is necessary but might be hard to implement due to difficulties in collecting evidence.
"The practice of launching public interest litigation by prosecutors is still at an initial stage, so it might take some time to achieve the goal," he said.