Chinese Netizen Fined For Possessing Adult Video

(yWeekend)  Henan Netzien Fined 1,900 Yuan For Storing 30-minute Adult Video On Computer.  By Deng Yanling and Ma Jun.  September 25, 2008.

[in translation]

Nanyang (Henan) city resident Ren Chaoqi has been depressed recently.  On the second day after getting married, the local police searched his computer, found a 30-minute adult video (the so-called "pornographic video") and fined him 1,900 yuan.

This fine drew almost completely one-sided objections on the Internet.  Many netizens said that their own collection of adult videos would have ruined them financially.

The principal Ren Chaoqi told yWeekend that he did not think that he should have been fined a single cent over this.  1,900 yuan was way too much.

The Nanyang City Public Security Bureau Internet Squad political commissar Ji Debin said that a 1,900 yuan fine was light already.  Commissar Ji also defended the police action and said that this case is different from the "Yenan pornographic disc affair" six years ago.

28-year-old Ren Chaoqi is a resident of Nanyang city, Henan province.  This August has been extraordinary for him.  On August 16, he got married.  Two days later, his computer was unexpectedly searched by the local Internet police who found a 30-minute adult video.

This personal computer was taken away by the Internet police for investigation.  Ren Chaoqi was later fined 1,900 yuan.

This case has been reported by many media recently and Ren Chaoqi is now in the middle of an Internet storm.  Some people have compared this case to the famous "Yenan married copule arrested for watching pornographic video disk at home" six years ago.

This young man had just ended his bachelor life two days before that, and his life has been unavoidably affected.  He recalled to the yWeekend reporter about how three Internet police officers showed up suddenly on August 18.

"Three people came wearing black casual clothes."  Ren Chaoqi said that the automobile accessory shop that he was starting with his friend Wang Ming had not begun to do business yet.  They were in the process of making preparations.  The Modern Santana car parked across the street and three men got out.  At the time, Ren Chaoqi was chatting on QQ on his computer.

At the time, there were not many opened businesses yet.  When Ren Chaoqi saw the men, he had a premonition.  He turned and spoke to Wang Ming: "How come these three people look like gangsters?  Are they coming to extort us?  Let us be careful."

Surprisingly, the three entered through the front door directly and identified themselves as police officers from the Nanyang city public security bureau.  They showed their police identification cards.

Three Internet policemen in plain clothes?  These two young men ready to start a new business were surprised and at a loss.

"Police officer Ding Li was in charge and he told us that they had received notice from the public security bureau that someone was using our IP address to distribute harmful information.  They needed to investigate."

There were only two desktop computers at the store.  Ren Chaoqi and Wang Ming had moved them over from their own homes.  The two were perplexed because they could not imagine how they were sending out harmful information.  The policeman waved a stack of papers in his hand and said that these were the records of the harmful information.  The two men wanted to read the records, but the policeman did not show them.

The two did not ask to see a search warrant.  "They have shown their police identification.  Can we refuse?  Go investigate by all means because we have not done anything illegal."  Ren Chaoqi told the yWeekend reporter that the two of them did not care.

The ADSL broadband connection had been obtained by Wang Ming using his own identity card.  So the Internet policemen began by examining Wang Ming's computer, checking one folder after another.  They also queried the Internet usage log on the computer.  After twenty minutes, they seemed to have found nothing.

Just as Ren Chaoqi was expecting the police to leave, the policeman in charge sat down in front of Ren Chaoqi's computer and began to examine its contents.

Ren's computer was purchased in 2002 and the equipment is quite old.  Apart from using QQ chat, he seldom gets on the Internet for anything else.  Usually, he used it to record the information on various automobile parts at the shop as well as managing the accounting.

After a while, Ding Li opened a folder on the D: drive.  Three folders deep was a 30-minute adult video.

"At the time, I was shocked.  I could not recover."  Ren Chaoqi remembered that when he moved the computer over here from home, he had deleted many things.  But since this video was nested deep underneath several levels of folders, he neglected to delete it.

Ren Chaoqi had been offering the policemen cigarettes and tea, and the atmosphere was quite cordial.  But as soon as this video surfaced, Ding Li and the other police officers changed their attitudes.  "They were angry, and their attitudes became very bad."  They did not want tea or cigarettes.  They wanted to seize the computer.  Without saying anything more, they wrote out a "receipt for item detained" and said that they wanted to take away the computer "on suspicion of downloading pornographic material."

Ren Chaoqi thought that this was just an adult video that he watched by himself once upon a time.  So he could not imagine that this would be a big deal, as many many people have watched this sort of thing on the Internet.  So he cooperated and even helped to carry the computer onto the car of the Internet police.

Even up to that moment, he never associated himself with "breaking the law."

Before the Internet policemen left, they made an appointment for Ren Chaoqi to go for an interview that afternoon.  After the interview, Ren Chaoqi saw that the other party wrote down "suspected of copying/downloading pornographic video" as the subject and he dissented because "he did not copy anything."  The other party appeared to agree and eliminated the word "copying."

Then the other party informed him that there will be a fine of 2,000 yuan and told him to go and get the money.  This sum shocked Ren Chaoqi because he did not imagine that it would be so much.

The more Ren Chaoqi thought about it when he got home, the more misgiving he had.  This was a video on his computer for himself and not shown to anyone else.  How can there be a 2,000 yuan fine?  So he and his friend Wang Ming began to look up the relevant information on the Internet, as well as call lawyers' offices and legal sections of local media for assistance.

On September 12, Ren Chaoqi went to the police station to pick up the <Public security administrative fine decision document>.  The police said that this fine was based upon articles 5(2) and 20 of the <Computer network and Internet safety protection administrative regulations>.

"Article 20 refers clearly to illegal revenue, and I did not have any illegal revenue.  How can this article be invoked against me?"  Ren Chaoqi immediately said that he could not understand it.  He understood that the amount of the fine should be based upon the <Public Security Penalty Laws> of 2006.

According to this article, "there can be a fine but not that much ... 500 yuan is more like it."

When the Internet policeman heard the dissent from Ren Chaoqi, he took down a brief statement.  Then Ren Chaoqi observed this Internet policeman took the statement to the law enforcement office on the fifth floor of the building.

By the time that the <Penalty decision document> came back, it became "a warning against Ren Chaoqi as well as a 1,900 yuan fine."  The policeman said that this was decided after consultation with the leaders and he offered no further explanation.  This went back and forth, and it was 7pm by the time that Ren Chaoqi left the police station.

When Ren Chaoqi got home, he discovered that the <Penalty decision document> still listed the illegal act as "copying/downloading pornographic video."  He telephoned back and was told that the police have confirmed that this video was downloaded eight months ago via BT (note: the P2P software BitTorrent).  The policeman said: "When you download a file via BT, you are also providing seeds for others to download in theory.  Isn't this copying?"

Ren Chaoqi only had a high school education and he did not understand a lot about computer technology.  He said that he did not realize that BT also provides seeds for others.  "Everybody uses this software on the Internet.  I never thought that there could be a problem.  If there really is a problem, why don't the relevant authorities ban it a long time ago?"

On September 16, Ren Chaoqi was told to retrieve his computer.  At the same time, he was given a fee payment notice which said that he has to pay the fine into a designated bank account between September 16 and October 1.

Ren Chaoqi's computer was held for almost one month.  "It had the information about my business.  Who is going to compensate me for my losses?"  he complained.

Ren Chaoqi told the yWeekend reporter that he negotiated with the police at the station.  At the time, he asked some of the male police officers there, especially a young man: "Have you never watched such films while you were at school?"  The other party said nothing.

Ren Chaoqi would not accept having to pay this fine and so he decided to ask for an administrative review at the Nanyang Public Security Bureau.  On the morning of September 22, he called the public security bureau and was told that the result of the administrative review would be known in 60 days.   "You pay the fine first."

As of September 24 when this article went into print, Ren Chaoqi is still anxiously waiting for the result of the administrative review.

He once thought that a fine of 500 yuan would be about right.  Now he firmly believes: "˘×should not have been fined a single cent!"

"But do you have any specific legal basis?"

Ren Chaoqi did not directly answer this question by the yWeekend reporter.  His conviction was based upon the almost completely one-sided support on the Internet.

When Ren Chaoqi went on the Internet to look for the relevant laws and regulations, he found out that he was an Internet star.  Famous commentators, active bloggers and many anonymous netizens were all on his side and against the police decision.  Some people wondered about the fine: "Is there any netizen left who isn't breaking the law?"

According to an Internet survey conducted by 55,259 persons voted and 96.52 (53,251 persons) thought that "this person did not illegal distribute and exhibit pornographic videos and that the negligible impact should not have incurred such as heavy fine."  At the Nanyang bar at Baidu, a similar survey showed that 99% were bothered by the police action.

"Do you feel that there would be a good outcome?  Are you hopeful?" asked the reporter.

"There may not be much hope," said Ren Chaoqi.  "If I am still going to be fined, I will consider filing a lawsuit to seek justice for myself."

But it is a lot of trouble to file a lawsuit.  Ever since this affair blew up, Ren Chaoqi has been very embarrassed.  He did not tell his family except that he quietly told his recently married wife.

"This affair is no longer my personal issue.  This is something for the netizens."  Ren Chaoqi said that the current discussions on the Internet may result in the amendment of the relevant laws.

At the various Internet forums, the netizens have called this the "1900 affair."  In this affair, one person drew the attention of many netizen.  This is the netizen with the alias "Strong Hot Wind" and he presented himself as a Nanyang Internet police officer.

"Strong Hot Wind" had registered at the Nanyang post bar of Baidu on June 12, 2007 and he has been quite active since.  He said that he was a police officer with the Nanyang city Public Security Bureau Internet Police Squad, and he answered questions from netizens in this capacity.  He has requested many times for the Baidu post bar administrators to delete certain posts that he thought were detrimental to the image of the local police.

After the Ren Chaoqi affair got reported by the media, "Strong Hot Wind" made more than 40 statements at the Baidu post bar.  In posts such as "Let us talk about whether it is reasonable to impose fines for downloading pornographic videos," "Fining the downloading of pornographic videos is typical abuse of police authority," he debated netizens and defended the police action.

Netizens from elsewhere in China began to form "Internet tourist groups" to come to the Nanyang post bar to watch "Strong Hot Wind" in action.

"No person or organization shall use the Internet to produce, reproduce, view or distribute any of the listed information.  Therefore, viewing is against the regulations.  We were lenient by not fining him 5,000 yuan!"  He wrote that although Ren Chaoqi was caught by chance, "we will be held accountable if we knew but declined to punish him ... he used BT to download.  We think that this is quite serious.  If the <Public security penal laws> were applicable, the punishment would be even heavier."

Faced with the rush of doubts and condemnations, "Strong Hot Wind" did not back down.  He insisted: "You cannot say that the law is wrong just because many people are breaking it.  Any number of people are going red lights every second, but this does not mean that the <Traffic safety laws> are wrong.  We enforce whatever the law says.  If you don't like the law, I suggest that you change it."

"We are merely enforcing the law.  People don't realize it now, but they will understand it later.  When you have your own children who only want to watch adult videos and don't want to study, you will know that this law is good."

Some netizen wondered: "The activity did not involve any profiteering and therefore it is a moral issue.  It is far-stretched to impose an administrative fine.  I think that the Internet police are only seeing money rolling in."

"Strong Hot Wind" explained: "Our department will not receive a single cent of that fine.  Presently, the fines are handled by different departments.  His money goes directly to the treasury."

On September 22, the Nanyang city police told a Henan media outlet that they have handled several previous cases in which the computers of organizations contained pornographic videos.  Basically, they imposed fines.

It would seem from his words that "Strong Hot Wind" is a highly moral person.

"Strong Hot Wind" called the netizens who download adult videos 'lechers."  He said: "It is a good thing that this case is being hyped up.  Everybody gets a lesson about the law.  I hope that the lechers pay attention to this."

Quite a few netizens said that which men do not have adult videos in their computers?

"Strong Hot Wind" emphasized that he has never downloaded adult videos.  "I hope that that when you see your children downloading adult videos, you won't say that, 'this is not against the law and you can go ahead, child' ... at this stage, the lechers should go an learn more about the People's Republic Of China Computer Network System Safety Protection Regulations."

At the comment space of "Strong Hot Wind" at Baidu, people kept leaving message to ask for discussions and debates.  Of course, there are quite a few people who just came in to scold him.  After September 21, "Strong Hot Wind" was online many times but maintained silence.

At 10pm on September 22, he sent a SMS to this reporter: "If you want to interview me, please contact the publicity department of the Nanyang city public security bureau."

Basically, the netizens have accepted that "Hot Strong Wind" is an Internet policeman in Nanyang city.  The reporter has not come across any doubts.  The reporter contacted Nanyang city Public Security Bureau political commissar Ji Debin to find out who that Internet policeman was.  But Ji Debin said that he has no idea which of his police officers was "Strong Hot Wind."  However, he did not say that this person was not a Nanyang city police officer.

Political commissar Ji Debin was interviewed by the yWeekend reporter for as long as one hour.  The reporter found him to be consistent with "Strong Hot Wind" on certain keypoints.  Furthermore, he also revealed other facts about the case.

"Actually, we the police are the weaker group."  On the after of September 23, 53-year-old Ji Debin told the yWeekend reporter.  Without confirming with the police, a wave of accusations and doubts was cast at the Nanyang Internet police even though the police made no mistakes during the process.  "We are facing a lot of pressure," said Ji Debin.

yWeekend: Did the Internet police search this man's computer?
Ji: The Internet police is a relatively new type of police.  70% of their work is done behind the scenes by offering technical support to serve the nation and to ensure the safety of information.  As to what they specifically do, that is a national secret that cannot be discussed.  With respect to administering Internet cafes, the Internet police have to come to the front stage.  They are also responsible for the daily management of all Internet users.  Based upon my understanding, daily management means that they can inspect any computer owned by individuals or organizations at any time.

yWeekend: That is to say, you don't need a search warrant to go through the computers of individuals and organizations?
Ji: There is no need.  Our daily inspections are similar to the safety police patrolling the streets in cars.  We don't need any identification except for the police ID's.  There are some situations in which we must produce additional documentation.  First, we need a search warrant to search the home of a criminal.  Secondly, we need an inspection warrant in order to effect an arrest in the case of a crime.  These documents require us to go through a very rigorous legal process to obtain.

yWeekend: What about private homes?
Ji: As for individuals, if there are citizen complaints, or if we have evidence, or if we have technical means to detecting something suspicious, we can go to investigate.  But we must carry out all the legal procedures such as obtaining the search or inspection warrants.  This case is very different from the case of the pornographic video disc in Yenan.  They were inside the private space of their own home, but he was in a store which is public space.  There is a difference.

yWeekend: Ren Chaoqi claimed that it was his personal computer?
Ji: His computer is not personal because it was not inside his home.  It was in a store that was a business, and that is public space.  The computer was not password-protected, so anyone can use it.  His computer shared the ADSL line with another computer.  So this was an organizational user, not a family user.  We went in for the inspection because we found out that his broadband account was sending out large amounts of harmful information continuously.  This has to be dealt with because it affects national security.
After our inspection, we determined that their address was hijacked so that there was a network flaw.  Ren Chaoqi said that his computer was disconnected because the Internet service provider would not allow two machines on the same line.  So we had to inspect his computer because it may contain the same flaw.  This was not what some netizens are saying that we went to inspect the second computer after finding nothing on the first one.  Furthermore, we found two pornographic videos on his machine.  But one of them could not be opened, so we only counted him as having one.

yWeekend: In dealing with the case of Ren Chaoqi, you cited articles 5(6) and 20 of the <Computer Network and Internet Safety Protection Administrative Regulations>, which allow you to impose a fine of less than 5,000 yuan.  Ren Chaoqi believes that his offense was slight and article 68 of the <Public security penalty regulations> apply with a fine of under 500 yuan.
Ji: If we used the <Public security penalty regulations> against Ren Chaoqi, it would have been more severe.  The <Public security penalty regulations> presupposes administrative detention as well as fines.  We thought that Ren Chaoqi had only downloaded two pornographic videos and his case was not that serious.
When I say that his case was not serious enough to use the <Public security penalty regulations>, I do not imply that his case was not serious.  In truth, he used the BT technique to download.  Therefore, while he was copying/downloading, he was also distributing.  We had to fine him or else we are not enforcing the law.

yWeekend: You were going to fine him 2,000 yuan, but it became 1,900 yuan.  Was it because you must have a hearing when the fine is 2,000 yuan or more?
Ji: When a judge gives out a sentence, the <Criminal Law> may mandate 3 to 5 years of prison.  It is up to the judge to decide whether it is 3 years or 5 years.  It is the same with the police.  The police decide on the amount of the fine.  This is the power vested in us by the law.  How do we decide?  First, it is about the severity of the crime.  Secondly, it is the attitude of the principal towards the matter.  Thirdly, we consider the hardship for the principal.  We originally decided that it would be 2,000 yuan for Ren Chaoqi.  But he repeatedly claimed that he was just starting a new store and he was in economic hardship.  We considered this point and reduced the fine to 1,900 yuan.  Even if we fined him 1 yuan, he could still ask for an administrative review or to sue us at the People's Court.  If we are not afraid of being sued, why would we be concerned about a hearing on the evidence?

yWeekend: Have you ever handled a case with a principal such as Ren Chaoqi?
Ji: This was a very proper enforcement of the law.  We have acted in accordance with the law before. I personally think that the reason why there is such a commotion this time is that he asked reporters that he knew to beg us for mercy.  When we refused, the media reported the case in a totally one-sided manner with only him talking.

yWeekend: As long as you use the Internet, you will encounter some harmful information.  Based upon Article 5 of the cited law, anyone who sees harmful information is breaking the law.  This means that everyone is breaking the law and you can fine anyone at will?
Ji: First of all, we do not go after private families.  Secondly, if you occasionally run across something and you don't download it, we won't penalize you.

yWeekend: When harmful information is being spread, shouldn't the Internet police ban those video websites that distribute these videos instead of going after users?
Ji: Last year, the state conducted two special campaigns against Internet pornography.  It is basically hard to find what we think of as being pornography on Chinese websites.  But if you go to an overseas websites to watch them and then you claim to be a victim after being penalized by the public security bureau, does that sound reasonable?

yWeeked: There is a netizen named "Strong Hot Wind" who claims to be an Internet police officer here.  He is supporting you on the  Internet, but almost all the netizens are criticizing him.  How do you look at this?
Ji: I just read about it this morning.  There is a lot of attack against him.  I do not know who "Strong Hot Wind" is.  Apart from him, there are other people who support our side.  Although their voices are small, they are present.  I also see some parents of students are on our side and they say that we must strike sternly.

yWeekend: Do you think that everybody is unanimously against you because it is too easy for you to find lawbreakers under the regulations?
Ji: I personally don't see any problems with our law enforcement.  There is no problem with the appropriate laws either.  The law prohibits you from watching and it prohibits you from downloading.  If you download it and we decline to punish you in accordance with the law, we are negligent.  The party disciplinary committee and the audit and supervisory departments will be after us.
We do not consider whether the regulations are too severe or not.  These regulations were proclaimed by the Ministry of Public Security.  We are only base-level public security officers and we must enforce the regulations.  When so many netizens are against our enforcement of the law, the root problem must be the law itself.  I recommend that the netizens should reflect these problems to National People's Congress Standing Committee, the State Council Legal System Office, the Ministry of Public Security Legal System Office and other units.  They should not be holding us responsible.

Liu Dahua is a lawyer in the Wanhuo Associates law office in Hunan.  Ren Chaoqi located him during the process of seeking information on the relevant laws.  In September 2004 and January 2006, he had proposed to examine the perils of some of the articles of the law to the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

"Sigh, here it comes again!"  When the case of Ren Chaoqi came up, Liu Dahua had to sigh.  Apart from the issue of copying or downloading adult videos, Liu Dahua said: "Even if Ren Chaoqi did not copy or download, he would be guilty of breaking article 5 of the <Computer Network and Internet Safety Protection Administrative Regulations> if there is a record that he had viewed these contents."

Liu Dahua wrote twice to the National People's Congress Standing Committee and the State Council Legal System Office because one news story "frightened" him -- it is illegal to even accidentally view "harmful information"!

The news story concerns the police stopping certain travelers carrying laptop computers at a train station in northern China.  As soon as they found web pages with "harmful information" being viewed, they imposed an immediate fine of 5,000 yuan.

Articles 5 and 20 of the regulations form the basis of the police action.  According to Article 5, 'viewing' shares the same status with "producing, copying and distributing."  All are illegal without any in-depth analysis of the subjective intent or the harm to society.

"Heavens!  Can you imagine how terrible that is?"  Liu Dahua was still exclaiming when he retold that news story.  "Before I open any web page, who can determine if there is any harmful information until we reach the end?"  The problem is that when a netizen accidentally opens a page with "harmful information," the law is violated and a fine of 5,000 yuan results.

Liu Dahua believes that no one can guarantee that they have never come across a harmful page.  Therefore, "nobody can escape the fate of breaking the law."

"Although I try every moment to be a law-abiding citizen, I have found myself breaking the law repeatedly.  When I get my fortune told on the Internet, I have visited a superstitious website -- I have broken the law.  I read an article on the Internet that libels so-and-so -- I have broken the law.  I came across an erotic story on the Internet -- I have broken the law.  I read an article criticizing a certain government department and thus damaging the reputation of that department -- I have broken the law ... not only do I break the law every day, I also break the law many times a day.  According to the standard of a fine of 5,000 yuan per occasion, or 5,000 yuan per day, I would be bankrupt if the law is strictly enforced.  How can I not be frightened?  How can the Chinese netizens not be frightened?  Since then, even though I never do anything wrong, I am still afraid of the knock on the door in the middle of the night because the policemen can come in, search my computer and write up the fines ..."

The latest incident in Nanyang (Henan) has persuaded Liu Dahua to write to the National People's Congress Standing Committee and the State Council Legal System Office to ask for a constitutional review.  "If nobody brings this up, these Ministry of Public Security regulations will not be corrected by themselves."

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  September 28, 2008.

The case of the Nanyang (Henan) netizen being fined 1,900 yuan by the Internet police for downloading an adult video has seen a twist yesterday.  Our reporter confirmed yesterday afternoon with the principal Ren Chaoqi that the Nanyang  Public Security Bureau Law Enforcement Supervisory Committee has notified him on September 26 that the super-heavy fine has been replaced by "educational criticism."  The police insisted that the facts were clear and the law had been properly applied before.  However, they considered the fact that Ren Chaoqi was a first-time offender and the crime was minor.  Therefore, they rescinded the fine.  Netizens believed that the decision was due to the pressure of Internet opinion.

Related Links: Internet Police Fine Man 1900 RMB For Downloading Porn  ChinaSMACK; Porn downloader's punishment reduced to a stern talking-to  Joel Martinsen, Danwei