The Legislative History of the Right to Privacy in China

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//古代中国,对隐私内容的保护和尊重主要体现在对统治者隐私权的重点保护,往往伴随着对侵犯统治者隐私权的行为进行极为残酷的惩处。

 我国第一部封建法典《法经》里就有“窥宫者膑”的规定。议论皇室的事情被视为大不敬,可以被处死。而作为统治者的皇帝却可以任意窥探、侵犯其臣民的隐私。

 一直到近代,隐私权在中国的发展都没有什么重大突破,《大清民律草案》(1911年完成)和《民国民律草案》(1925年完成)中并没有隐私权的规定,只是笼统地规定了人格权的保护。两部草案都由于复杂的原因,未能执行。

 1929年至1932年颁布的《中华民国民法典》是中国历史上的第一部民法典,其中第195条规定:(侵害身体健康名誉或自由之非财产上损害赔偿)不法侵害他人之身体、健康、名誉、自由、信用、隐私、贞操,或不法侵害其它人格法益而情节重大者,被害人虽非财产上之损害,亦得请求赔偿相当之金额。其名誉被侵害者,并得请求回复名誉之适当处分。

……

该法可以看作是中国隐私立法史上的一个里程碑,因为虽然只是将隐私与自由、信用等其他权利极为简略地列举提及,但总算是在国家法律中第一次出现了。

周汉华与苏苗罕认为,我国个人信息保护立法大致可以分为三个阶段

 第一阶段大致为1949年到1981年。这一阶段立法上最早出现的既不是隐私,也不是个人信息,而是人们使用得最多的阴私。

 第一个法律规定是 1956 年全国人民代表大会常务委员会就最高人民法院提出的什么案件可以不公开进行审理的问题所做出的《全国人大常委会关于不公开进行审理的案件的决定》。该决定规定:“人民法院审理有关国家机密的案件,有关当事人阴私的案件和未满十八周岁少年人犯罪的案件,可以不公开进行。”

该规定所确定的不公开审理案件的核心原则,一直延续到1980年代,阴私一词也一样延续到1980年代。

 1979年制定的《刑事诉讼法》第111 条几乎与上述规定的内容一样:

“人民法院审判第一审案件应当公开进行。但是有关国家机密或者个人阴私的案件,不公开审理。十四岁以上不满十六岁未成年人犯罪的案件,一律不公开审理。十六岁以上不满十八岁未成年人犯罪的案件,一般也不公开审理。对于不公开审理的案件,应当当庭宣布不公开审理的理由。”

 《中华人民共和国人民法院组织法》第七条规定:人民法院审理案件,除涉及国家机密、个人阴私和未成年人犯罪案件外,一律公开进行。

 应当指出的是,当《中华人民共和国人民法院组织法》于1983年修订时,第七条仍然保持不变,继续沿用“阴私”。直到1986年再次修订时,才改用“隐私”。

 根据《最高人民法院关于依法公开审判的初步意见》(19 8 1 )的规定,“有关个人阴私的案件。一般是指涉及性行为和有关侮辱妇女的犯罪案件”。由此对“阴私”进行了界定。

 这一阶段有关隐私的法律法规都严格地限制在“阴私”的范畴,体现出强烈的历史和文化传统及影响。

 第二阶段大致从1982年到2002年。期间“隐私”一词开始在法律法规中出现,并逐渐取代“阴私”。 1982 年的《民事诉讼法(试行)》是第一个使用“隐私”概念的法律。其第45条规定:

……经人民法院许可,当事人可以查阅本案的庭审材料,请求自费复制本案的庭审材料和法律文书。但是,涉及国家机密或者个人隐私的材料除外。……

 可以理解的是,在这一阶段的前几年,阴私与隐私两词在制定新法时同时使用。前文所提到的《中华人民共和国人民法院组织法》在1983年修订的时候,仍然使用的是阴私一词。

 周汉华指出,到2010年10月底,共有22部法律、15部行政法规、数以百计的部门规章或规范性文件,使用“隐私”一词。

 在第二阶段使用“隐私”的主要原因是改革开放政策、文化交流以及中国学者开始研究隐私问题。在第一阶段,对“阴私”还进行了一定的界定,但在第二阶段,缺乏对“隐私”进行界定。

 第三阶段大致从2003年开始至今,“个人信息”一词开始在法律法规中出现。

 2003年颁布的《中华人民共和国居民身份证法》是第一部使用“个人信息”的法律。其第六条规定:……公安机关及其人民警察对因制作、发放、查验、扣押居民身份证而知悉的公民的个人信息,应当予以保密。

其第十九条规定:人民警察有下列行为之一的,根据情节轻重,依法给予行政处分;构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任:……(五)泄露因制作、发放、查验、扣押居民身份证而知悉的公民个人信息,侵害公民合法权益的。

 2006年通过的《中华人民共和国护照法》第十二条规定:……护照签发机关及其工作人员对因制作、签发护照而知悉的公民个人信息,应当予以保密。第二十条规定:护照签发机关工作人员在办理护照过程中有下列行为之一的,依法给予行政处分;构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任:……(五)泄露因制作、签发护照而知悉的公民个人信息,侵害公民合法权益的;……

 《全国人民代表大会常务委员会关于加强网络信息保护的决定》2012年12月28日由第十一届全国人民代表大会常务委员会第三十次会议通过。全国人民代表大会常务委员会是中国最高的立法机关。该决定共有12个条款,跟一般法律具有同等法律效力。其主要目的是加强对个人网络信息和公共利益的保护。该决定可以被看作是中国网络隐私保护法律法规的一个重要里程碑。

 随着信息化和互联网时代的到来,中国立法中开始使用“个人信息”一词。在第三阶段,法律法规中的“阴私”一词完全被“隐私”和“个人信息”所取代。大多数时候,“隐私”和“个人信息”都被看成是可以交换使用的同义词。

 

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//Picking up where he left off, CGCS visiting Scholar Jinghong Xu continues his look at the History of Internet Privacy in China through a legislative lens. Sparked by the recent 12-article Decision on Strengthening Online Information Protection adopted by Chinese lawmakers, Xu examines preceding Chinese legislation and charts the evolution of the word “privacy” from imperial double standard to modern day information security.

In ancient China, the respect and protection of the elements making up the right to privacy were present, but mostly when concerned with the ruling class. Privacy laws and regulations were put in place to punish the invasive, not to protect the people at large.

The first feudal legal code, the Book of Law, stipulates that those caught peering into the imperial palace “should be punished by cutting their kneecaps” while those caught talking about royal affairs “may be sentenced to death.” These rules operated with the understanding that the emperor could arbitrarily invade others’ private affairs (Xianming Xu, 1998).

Until very recently, the right to privacy saw little progressive adaptation. Both the Civil Law Draft of Qing Dynasty (completed in 1911) and the Civil Law Draft of the Republic of China (completed in 1925) contained general protection for the right to individual personality, but without any specific regulations about the right to individual privacy. Due to political complications, neither draft were put into practice.

The Civil Law Code of the Republic of China, however¸ was enacted between 1929 and 1932, serving as the first civil code in Chinese history. Article 195 of the document provides that:

…compensation for non-property damages because of infringing body, health, reputation or freedom, while illegally infringed his or her right to body, right to health, right to reputation, right to freedom, right to credit, right to privacy, right to chastity or any other legal interests and rights of personality with serious consequences, the victim shall have the right to demand certain amount of money as compensation even if he or she hasn’t suffered property loss. When his or her reputation is infringed upon, the victim shall have the right to demand that his reputation be rehabilitated with certain appropriate punishments.

The Civil Law Code can be regarded as a landmark in the fight for privacy – it is the very first time that the words “right to privacy” appeared in national law. Privacy was mentioned simply, not singled out or highlighted, but instead listed alongside various other rights. (Jinghong Xu, 2010.)

Hanhua Zhou & Miaohan Su (2009) concluded that after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the legislative history of the “right to privacy” can approximately be divided into three periods.

The first period was roughly from 1949 to 1981 when neither privacy (yǐn sī) nor personal information appeared first in the legislation. The Chinese word for shameful or embarrassing private affairs (yīn sī), however, does make an appearance, as it was already a part of the culture of the time.

The first law installed alluding to privacy was the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Cases not to be Heard in Public (issued in 1956 and in effect until 1987). This legislation handles identifying which kinds of cases should be heard not in public. Note the use of the word for ‘shameful or embarrassing private affairs (“yīn sī”).

The entire decision reads as follows:

Cases involving state secrets, individual’s shameful or embarrassing private affairs and crimes committed by minors younger than eighteen years may not be heard in public by People’s courts.

Article 119 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (issued in 1979) has almost the same content of the decision above:

Cases of first instance in a People’s court shall be heard in public. However, cases involving state secrets or individual’s shameful or embarrassing private affairs shall not be heard in public. No cases involving crimes committed by minors who have reached the age of 14 but not the age of 16 shall be heard in public. Generally, cases involving crimes committed by minors who have reached the age of 16 but not the age of 18 shall also not be heard in public. The reason for not hearing a case in public shall be announced in court.

Article 7 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Organization of the People’s Courts (issued in 1979) provides that:

All cases in the People’s courts shall be heard in public, except for those involving state secrets, individual’s shameful or embarrassing private affairs and the crimes committed by minors.

It should be mentioned that when the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Organization of the People’s Courts was revised in 1983, Article 7 remains the same and kept the word  “yīn sī” (shameful or embarrassing private affairs). Until its next revision in 1986 which incorporated privacy for the first time (yǐn sī), the law remained static. Note the similarity between the Chinese words for private affairs (yīn sī) and privacy (yǐn sī).

The Preliminary Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Judicial Openness according to Law in the People’s Courts (issued in 1981) provides that “generally speaking, cases involving individual’s shameful or embarrassing private affairs refer to those involving [sexual] behavior and [actions] humiliating women.” Thus solidified, was the meaning of “yīn sī” (shameful or embarrassing private affairs).

We may say that the laws and regulations concerning the right to privacy of this period is strictly limited to the aspect of shameful or embarrassing private affairs, which can be found strong historical and cultural traditions and influences.

The second period was roughly from 1982 to 2002 during which ‘privacy’ began to appear and to gradually substitute for ‘shameful or embarrassing private affairs’ in all laws and regulations. Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (For Trial Implementation), was issued in 1982, and was the first law to actively use ‘privacy’.

Article 45 provides:

…With the permission of the People’s court, the parties may consult the materials relating to the court proceedings of the case and may request that copies of the materials and other legal documents be made at their own expense. However, materials involving state secrets and the private affairs of individuals shall be exceptions…

During the first years of this period, the traditional words for ‘shameful or embarrassing private affairs’ and ‘privacy’ were used at the same time when issuing new laws or amending old laws. The above-mentioned Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Organization of the People’s Courts continued to use the traditional words for ‘shameful or embarrassing private affairs’ when it was revised in 1983.

The third period spans from roughly 2003 until current day. What separates this period from the preceding two, is the appearance of the word for ‘personal information’ in laws and regulations.

The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Identity Card of Residents (issued in 2003) was the first law to use the word personal information.

Article 6 provides:

…The personal information of the citizens learnt of by the public security organs and the people’s policemen in the course of making, issuing, checking and detaining of the identity cards shall be kept confidential.

Article 19 provides:

…a policeman who infringes upon the legal rights and interests of the citizens to disclose the personal information of the citizens learnt of in the course of the making, issuing, checking, and detaining of the identity cards, shall be given an administrative sanction in accordance with the law according to the circumstances; if a crime is constituted, he shall be prosecuted for criminal responsibilities.

2006’s Passport Law of the People’s Republic of China provides for the following:

…The passport issuance departments and their functionaries shall keep confidential the citizens’ personal information they know have access to due to making or issuing passports. (Article 12)

…Any functionary of a passport issuance department impairing the legitimate rights and interests of any citizen due to divulging of personal information of the citizen which he knows has access to in the course of making or issuing a passport during the process of handling the affairs relating to passports-related matter, he shall be given an administrative sanction. If any crime is constituted, he shall be subject to criminal liabilities. (Article 20)

Hanhua Zhou (2010) pointed out that there had been 22 laws, 15 administrative regulations, hundreds of departmental rules and other normative documents of law using the word ‘privacy’ by 2010.

Recently, a 12-article Decision on Strengthening Online Information Protection, which has the same legal effect as law, was adopted by Chinese lawmakers during a session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. China’s top legislature aimed to enhance the protection of personal information online and safeguard public interests. The Decision can be regarded as an important milestone in Chinese laws and regulations concerning the protection of privacy online.

In a modernization of traditional understanding, the advent of the Internet saw Chinese legislators begin to use the word for “personal information” more frequently.

During this modern period of Chinese privacy, the word “yīn sī” (shameful or embarrassing private affairs) has been completely substituted by “yǐn sī”(privacy) when concerning personal information in laws and regulations. Most of the time, “yǐn sī”(privacy) and personal information are regarded as the same and are used interchangeably.

References

Hanhua Zhou, 2010. Analysing the related legal problems of  360 privay-protector and QQ bodyguard. [Online]. http://www.iolaw.org.cn/showArticle.asp?id=2766. (In Chinese.)

Hanhua Zhou & Miaohan Su. 2009. Sixty years of constructing Chinese informationization laws and regulations. E-Government. 10, pp. 53-54. (In Chinese.)

Jinghong Xu. 2010. The right to privacy and its protection during the course of Internet communication. (p. 58). Beijing: Beijing Yanshan Press. (In Chinese.)

Xianming Xu. 1998. Personal and personality right. In Buyun Li (Eds.), Comparative study of constitution. (p. 486). Beijing: Law Press. (In Chinese.)

//Jinghong Xu is an Associate Professor of Communication at the School of Digital Media and Design Arts, Beijing University of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT). He is a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Center for Global Communications Studies of Annenberg School for Communication, at the University of Pennsylvania for the 2012-2013 academic year. Xu also serves as the vice-director of the interdisciplinary Center of Social Network Information Management and Service, BUPT and a post-doctoral candidate at the Institute of Law, at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He is a member of International Communication Association (ICA), the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) and a Reviewer of the Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index (CSSCI) journal Library and Information Service. His research focuses on new media communication, media ethics, media policy and law, cyber culture, information law and Internet law, especially Internet Governance, online privacy, online public opinion and digital copyright, etc.

He holds a BA of English and as well as a MA of Journalism and Ph.D. of Communication. He has been involved in many funded projects in varying capacities as principal investigator, co-investigator and collaborator and has published a book and more then 50 articles. He can be reached via email.

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