Law further protects privacy, experts say

(China Daily)| Updated: 2021-01-05


A senior citizen tries out facial recognition technology at a fair in Hangzhou on May 27, 2017. [Photo/China Daily]

China's Civil Code, which came into force on Friday, will help people be braver in saying "no" to things that disturb their private lives, including prank calls and spam messages, as it strengthens protection of their privacy and personal information, legal professionals said.

Regarded as an encyclopedia of social activities and a key legal instrument to safeguard people's civil rights, the code is the first law called a "code" since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

Adopted by the third session of the 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, on May 28, the code is also milestone legislation in comprehensively advancing the rule of law and promoting the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.

The 1,260-article code consists of general provisions, with clear stipulations on basic civil rights, duties and principles, and six individual sections on property, contracts, personality rights, marriage and family, inheritance and torts.

Chen Changyi, a judge at Beijing's Haidian District People's Court, lauded the code, especially the section on personality rights.

"It's the first time that a law defines what privacy is," he said. "In the past it was too vague, and that often gave us difficulties in case hearings and rulings."

Chen said he previously had to identify behavior that disturbed the peace of someone's private life, such as spam emails, as infringing on that person's dignity.

"But now I can firmly rule it is privacy infringement, as the code clarifies that privacy is an individual's private peace as well as his or her private space-activities and information that he or she does not want others to know," he said.

Specifically, individuals and organizations cannot disturb others' private peace by calls, text messages, instant messaging tools, emails or leaflets, according to the code, which also prohibits them from entering, photographing or peering at others' private space, such as residences or hotel rooms.

It also prohibits filming, spying on, eavesdropping or disclosing others' private activities, body parts and information.

"These specific rules, I believe, will not only be a backbone for residents to safeguard their rights to privacy, but also be a clear guideline for judges like me to solve relevant disputes more efficiently," Chen said.

Cheng Xiao, vice-president of the law school at Tsinghua University, welcomed the code's listing of various types of private space, but said it should be expanded to include more areas.

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