China law would outlaw insults to Communist heroes, martyrs
Posted March 13
BEIJING — Damaging the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs could be a civil offense under a proposed draft of China's civil law, as the Communist Party further tightens the space for dissent and academic discourse on historical issues.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that delegates to China's ceremonial parliament had introduced the provisions for ratification this week.
In recent months, top Communist Party officials, including the education minister, have openly warned about the trend of historical revisionists "smearing" the party by offering unsanctioned views about past events, something that could now amount to an offense.
The proposed law comes at a time when liberal academics and intellectuals are already under rising political pressure to toe the party line.
A professor was forced into retirement in January for criticizing Mao Zedong, while a writer was convicted of libel last year after he challenged the veracity of a famous tale of Communist Party soldiers who allegedly sacrificed themselves in a battle against invading Japanese forces.
The Communist Party, which seized power in a 1949 revolution, has been wary of challenges to its own narratives about its pantheon of heroes and their struggles on behalf of the Chinese people — tales that form a linchpin in its claim to political legitimacy.
Shortly after President Xi Jinping rose to power in 2012, a top party office released Document No. 9, a secret internal communique warning that attempts to reassess history could effectively undermine "the legitimacy of the Communist Party's long-term political dominance."
The campaign to snuff out revisionism was further highlighted last summer when the editors of a liberal historical magazine backed by aging party elites were ousted.
In recent years Xi has emphasized ideological discipline as he shores up the Communist Party's grip on society. Authorities have warned against teaching liberal Western values in classrooms and rounded up lawyers and civil society activists.
In its report, Xinhua said unidentified lawmakers in the National People's Congress believed that slandering heroes and martyrs harmed society.
"According to some NPC deputies, certain people have maliciously defamed and insulted heroes and martyrs through twisting the truth and slander, harming the public interest and causing adverse social impact," Xinhua said.