by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
china, police, recording police

Yes, You Read That Correctly: China Says It's OK For Members Of The Public To Record The Police

from the well,-look-at-that... dept

As Tim Cushing wrote a few months back, recording the police is a complex and contentious issue in the US. But what about in China? Given the increasing clampdown on the Internet world, it's pretty easy to guess that the Chinese authorities wouldn't take too kindly to members of the public trying to hold the police to account in this way. Easy to guess -- and yet wrong, according to this story in the South China Morning Post (SCMP):
Chinese residents can now record the actions of police ­officers as long as it does not stop them from doing their job.
The article provides a little background to this rather surprising news:
The move is expected to help keep police in check but there were no details on how it will be enforced.
And this is why some of them clearly need to be controlled better:
Environmental scientist Lei, 29, died in police custody in May just 50 minutes after he was ­approached by plainclothes ­officers for an identification check in his neighbourhood.

At first, police said he died of a heart attack, but an autopsy report this month said he died of suffocation from gastric fluid.

The public blamed his death on police handling, with two case officers arrested on suspicion of dereliction of duty.
Although this move might be seen as the Chinese authorities giving new powers to the people against the police, it's probably better thought of as using the people to root out the bad apples of the kind mentioned in the SCMP piece. As such it's of a piece with President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corrupt officials who abuse their power, seen most recently in the sentence of the top Chinese general Guo Boxiong, who was jailed for life for taking bribes.

In other words, while citizens use this new permission to aid Xi in his purge of unwanted elements in the system, they will be welcome to record the police as much as they like. However, if they start making life awkward for the authorities by passing around the "wrong" kind of recordings, we can probably expect this newfound power to be rescinded quite quickly.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Aug 2016 @ 4:23am

    Considering some cops in the US believe you are interfering if you record something 30 feet away this may be quite subjective, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    roebling (profile), 3 Aug 2016 @ 4:37am

    No unions to answer to

    China officials welcome the additional oversight that personal video recording will bring to Chinese police forces. Government in China, bad though it is in many ways, doesn't have the police unions that America has blocking any attempts to make officers more accountable for their actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 4:55am

    Sure, record art will.
    Try to post the vid online ... that's a tazin'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 5:24am

    Given that China enjoys the fifth unfreeest press in the world, journalists and rights lawyer's are routinely clapped in jail or simply disappeared I find this almost as believable as North Korea's supposed freedom of religion.

    I'm sure you can take all the video you want of the "right" corrupt cops but as soon as you take a video of the "wrong" authorities you won't be around much longer. Keep in mind that this is a country that TO THIS DAY denies that it had troops now down thousands of protesters in Tiananmen Square.

    Excuse me if the very idea of civil rights and police accountability in China makes me laugh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 6:29am

    It's Fucking China...

    This is just a bait and switch. Expect this law to only be enforced in a way that is beneficial to the Government and NOT its Citizens.

    go ahead, record those officers...

    China has already Learned from America that it is perfectly fine & doable to have 3 sets of laws.

    1. Set of laws to appease the public and make them feel like they have liberty or "Rights".
    2. Set of laws completely negating #1 laws when the government "feels" like someone should not have any rights.
    3. Set of "Secret" laws that citizens are required to Follow but are not "Allowed" to know or challenge!

    America is proving to be a less direct but more insidious form of villainy than Germany ever threatened the world with and China, Russia, and many other "Governments" have more than caught on to the American Government's game. What's even worse? The only thing they have really said about it is... "Welcome to the dark side!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 Aug 2016 @ 7:19am

    That's less spectacular than it sounds.

    China has no First Amendment and no free media, so the authorities have control over the use and dissemination of such recordings.

    If you are recording covertly, the regulation cannot be made to stick. And if you are recording openly, chances are that police recordings will be enough to identify you.

    So what you can do reasonably safely is report the authorities to the authorities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 3 Aug 2016 @ 7:30am


    It's a little scary when China values freedom more than the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 3 Aug 2016 @ 8:00am

    Yay, China

    Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Median Wilfred, 3 Aug 2016 @ 8:22am

    Why is filming police contentious?

    I'm not denying that filming police is a contentious issue, because we see stuff about it every damn day. But why?

    I mean, we've got alll kinds of rules about being in a "public place" when it comes to police "not searching" someone - like aren't pockets a "public place" in the search context? Your house is a "public place" for police to snoop through the windows if you don't have light-tight curtains sealed over all windows. And surveillance cam's legality depends on the "no expectation of privacy" thing about being in a "public place".

    Why do police get a pass on this multitude of rules? It's almost as if equal under the law doesn't apply to police, like they get quite a few more rights, including a legal belief that they're acting under good intentions, which the rest of the people just don't get. At the very least this has the whiff of "police state" about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 11:01am

    I see this working in China about as well as it works here in the US, probably not even that well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 3 Aug 2016 @ 11:14am

    Keep in mind...

    The problem China has is that they have struck a Faustian bargain since Tien-Amen. They will provide peace, order, and prosperity, and in return, the public will let them continue to rule as dictators. So where's the check on power?

    When government oppression gets out of hand, because there are no controls, the result is severe civil unrest. Politicians "persuade" people to sell their property for a new development (that makes the politicians and their cronies tons of money). People object but can't express themselves. Result - riots police stations burned down, people killed. Politicians have learned that attracting the attention of the central government with this sort of incident earns them a bullet in the back of the head, live in the soccer stadium.

    There was a series of news photos posted a few years ago of a bunch of thugs (i.e. plain-clothes police) who assaulted the wrong person, killed him, and before the regular cops could arrive, half a dozen or more of them were surrounded by a crowd, beaten to death, and their vehicles trashed.

    The central government is looking for whatever means it can find to keep a lid on unrest. If police realize viral videos mean that they get the state police special treatment themselves for misbehaviour, maybe that will restrain them.

    Meanwhile in the USA, the police can beat the crap out of someone, live on camera, or even shoot them or choke them - and nothing really happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Aug 2016 @ 5:43am

      Re: Keep in mind...

      That's because right-wing apologists jump in to complain that the film is misleading, the cops are under threat from the man who is violently beating their feet with his body, and that lefty socialists are using this to further their agenda, etc. If that doesn't do the trick they do everything they can to discredit the victim in the name of being fair and balanced.

      Being conservative should not mean accepting thuggish behaviour from law enforcement officials as a matter of course. They're supposed to uphold the law, not to punish people for breaking it; that's the court's job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 3 Aug 2016 @ 12:43pm

    this is bloody insane when China has more respect from the world than America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 3:38pm

    I'm pretty sure this is China giving the middle finger to the US. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this was another of their ways of destroying the US's (rapidly faultering) moral high ground. It seems China, the last half decade, has done this a few times, either going in on something unethical the US has started as a way to shield themselves from criticism, or taking stands on an issue that are a large problem for the US.

    Do I dislike this policy? Heavens no! I agree with it 100%. Do I believe china is merely altruistic in this gesture? F*K no, this is all part of their planned social culture, as mentioned in another comment as a way to give an illusion of power to the populus, gain free accountability on police activity without government spending, and avoid the sort of police brutality that leads to revolt. You know, the sort US officers are veering ever nearer.

    And I can't help but laugh... every time I picture Chinese diplomats at the UN saying in a loud voice "Of COURSE we allow our citizens to film our police force. We have nothing to hide! We are dictators, not monsters." and picturing the US diplomats cringing horribly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Carl, 3 Aug 2016 @ 6:05pm

    China has one center government that leads all of these state governments, so all states must follow one rule instead of having their own. it is much easier to make policy changes.
    also, as long as you don't challenge party's ruling you will be fine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2016 @ 8:20pm

    Police across the US are disappointed in China now.

    They expected China to be more of a leader in the field of abusive policing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.