Justice is hard to find in communist China’s judicial system. Although laws exist to protect citizens’ privacy and stop the use of hidden electronic devices, such as secret cameras, violations rarely lead to prosecution. There have been cases of people committing suicide due to falling victim to hidden camera recordings taken with pornographic intentions. Yet those responsible often walk free or are lightly sentenced — only two years in jail, at most.
In July 2018, Wu Zhengor, a businessman in Hunan Province, accused several judges of corruption after hiring detectives to gather photographic evidence. However, Wu was immediately sentenced to four years in prison for secretly obtaining personal information, while the judges remained untouched.
In this way, laws are very often used to protect the privacy of the privileged and the corrupt, while the majority of citizens are left ignored, without any means to defend themselves.
Laws also exist to punish those who are involved in the manufacturing, selling, and distributing of electronic spying devices and their recordings, yet the market is so large that it is almost untouchable. As early as 2012, an undercover reporter visited a shopping mall to discover that over 10 stores were selling micro cameras disguised as watches, key chains, and pens, etc.
According to data released by the Chinese Supreme Court, there have been around 200 cases of prosecution related to the manufacture or sale of such spying devices over the last decade, and less than 2,000 cases related to the distribution of recordings taken with spying devices. Most cases have ended in the offender being released under probation, with the heaviest sentence being no more than half a year in prison. By contrast, there have been 30,000 cases of murder recorded in the last decade. This illustrates how China’s spy market is being encouraged to progress, and considering its developmental trend, things are looking increasingly serious.
Individual privacy is taken much more seriously outside of China. For example, in 2012, a 15-year-old girl in Vancouver, Canada, committed suicide after recordings that violated her privacy had been spread across the Internet. The offender was arrested in Holland in 2017 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. In another case in 2003, a sergeant in Mississippi in the U.S. was found guilty of secretly taking photographs of women and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Such offenses carry minimal risks in China, yet potential profits are very attractive, so, many are encouraged to participate in activities related to the spy market. Secret recording devices are very easily obtained and operating them takes minimal skill. Secret recordings of women that are aimed at the pornographic market are especially common. Profits can quickly reach billions of dollars.
Since the use of hidden cameras and wiretapping equipment is rife within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself, such a societal problem is hard to correct, and the threat to individual privacy and individual freedom is increasingly spiraling out of control.
Translated by Audrey and Edited by Emiko Kingswell
Part One can be found here.