China uses cyberbullying case studies and outlines new rules in crackdown on internet violence

Beijing can detain or fine individuals for Photoshopping other people’s pictures, spreading sex-related rumours or harassing others with insulting text messages and phone calls, China’s Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday as it addressed 10 typical cases of cyberbullying.

Beijing’s latest push to crack down on cyberbullying came after some cases caught national attention. The ministry said cyberbullying had been rampant in recent years and some cases had resulted in victims killing themselves or becoming mentally ill.


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“We have always maintained a ‘zero-tolerance’ attitude and dealt with a number of internet violence cases where individuals slandered others, spread rumours or invaded privacy online,” the ministry’s statement said.

In one typical example, Zhang, who lives in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, installed a positioning device and spyware to obtain a person’s information. Zhang then hired a group online to spread fake videos, pictures and insulting articles about the victim, leading to the victim developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

In January, Zhang was detained and was later sentenced to six years in prison and fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,409) for invading others’ privacy, picking quarrels and provoking trouble and intentional injury.

Picking quarrels and provoking trouble is a criminal offence that could lead to up to 10 years in jail under Chinese laws.

In other cases, individuals were detained after spreading rumours that a victim’s wife “had an affair” and a teacher was harassed by her superior.

Being hired to defame others is also not tolerated. In two cases, individuals were hired by others to expose victims’ private information online, send insulting text messages and mail paper money and other funeral items to the victims. Local police detained the hired perpetrators, according to the ministry.

In September, China’s top three legal bodies – the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security – jointly issued a directive on cyberbullying.

The document clarified how online violence may be punished under different existing laws, specifically stressing bullying against minors and people with disabilities, the deployment of paid posters, spreading sex-related rumours, the use of deepfake technology and cyberbullying organised by websites.


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China does not have a law against online violence, and there have been calls to strengthen regulations to crack down on such abuse.

In recent years, cyberbullying has become more rampant and is subject to trends. This year has seen a new “box-opening” movement surface in which a victim’s telephone number, ID number, address, photo and even hotel check-in information is publicly displayed online.

Some instances of cyberbullying have led to serious outcomes. In February, a 23-year-old woman killed herself after battling depression for months over being cyberbullied for her pink-dyed hair.

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Last year, a 17-year-old boy, Liu Xuezhou, took his own life after being cyberbullied for more than a year. Liu was abducted at birth and spent years looking for his biological parents. When he found them, he met rumours that he had only wanted a house from his parents and was trying to gain sympathy.

Liu’s adoptive family sued two influencers this year and the case is still being processed.

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing them, help is available. In Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.


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