Scourge of on­line vi­o­lence must be stopped

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW - The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­nadaily.

Ru­mors about what caused the death of Qiao Ren­liang, a widely known 28-yearold singer and ac­tor, fi­nally died down, af­ter his com­pany an­nounced that he was suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, im­ply­ing that that was the cause of his death. Qiao’s fu­neral will be held soon, yet his death has taught us some lessons about on­line vi­o­lence and the so­cial and eco­nomic dam­age it can cause.

Af­ter the Tian­jin blast on Aug 12, 2015, Qiao posted a mes­sage on his blog, say­ing no more fire­fight­ers need to rush to the site. But some peo­ple mis­in­ter­preted his mes­sage and ac­cused him of be­ing in­dif­fer­ent to the sac­ri­fice of the brave fire­fight­ers who died try­ing to con­trol the blaze.

Hu­mil­i­at­ing and threat­en­ing mes­sages flooded his blog. The in­ces­sant vol­leys of in­sults and in­vec­tives pushed him into de­pres­sion, al­though later he do­nated 1 mil­lion yuan ($149,900) to the fam­i­lies of the fire­fight­ers. The con­tin­u­ous on­line bul­ly­ing had a grave ef­fect on Qiao’s health; it even hin­dered his ca­reer.

That on­line vi­o­lence against Qiao con­tin­ues is lam­en­ta­ble and de­spi­ca­ble. Even af­ter his death, some ne­ti­zens hinted that the cause of Qiao’s death was his “ex­treme sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences”. Such ru­mors stopped only af­ter other ne­ti­zens re­quested their ag­gres­sive and vi­o­lent coun­ter­parts to show some re­spect for the dead.

Those peo­ple who spread the ru­mor about the cause of Qiao’s death are rather smart be­cause they did not con­clude any­thing, but the devil is in the “de­tail” and can be eas­ily de­coded by short mes­sage users. Even if some day Qiao’s fam­ily is able to iden­tify the ru­mor­mon­gers and sue them in court, they can eas­ily es­cape pun­ish­ment by say­ing their on­line posts did not con­clude any­thing.

Ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal law, if some­one is found guilty of spread­ing ru­mors and desta­bi­liz­ing the so­cial or­der, he/she could face im­pris­on­ment of three to seven years. But in a mi­nor case, the ru­mor­mon­ger would only need to apol­o­gize and pay a fine of up to only 500 yuan.

On Sept 6, po­lice de­tained seven real estate agents for spread­ing ru­mors that the Shang­hai city au­thor­i­ties are set to change prop­erty mar­ket rules, which would treat cou­ples di­vorced within one year as part of one fam­ily and they would have to pay higher down pay­ment to buy a sec­ond house. This prompted many cou­ples, from those mar­ried for decades to new­ly­weds, to seek di­vorce af­ter reg­is­ter­ing their ex­ist­ing houses in the name of one of them so that the other could pur­chase a sec­ond at a lower down pay­ment. Po­lice said the realty agents were de­tained be­cause they had “dis­turbed the nor­mal eco­nomic or­der”.

But the au­thor­i­ties need to take stricter mea­sures to curb on­line vi­o­lence and ru­mors, be­cause such acts in­fringe on in­di­vid­u­als’ rights, too.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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