Friday, July 25, 2008

Who Owns Information

Civil rights activist Mr. Huang Qi was arrested by police on June 10, 2008. Mr. Huang together wish another volunteer was helping the earthquake disaster relief when both were arrested. According to the volunteer who was released a few days later, police questioned him specifically on their investigation of the poor building quality of public schools.

Huang's wife went to the Bureau of Public Safety of Wuhou, Chengdu to inquire the condition of Huang. She was showed a warrant for "Illegal Procession of National Secret". This is about Huang's visiting of victim families connected to collapsed school buildings.

There had been many cases of people arrested for 'Leaking National Secret'. With a broach definition of 'national secret', one could be thrown into jail for mailing a newspaper, or an openly published book. Still, those are about something written or compiled by someone else, even after they were put into public domain. It's often ridiculous to say a newspaper is national secret, but still often, the prosecution will claim that they see it as a national secret. In this case, however, none of such 'published' or 'compiled' materials exists. The said 'national secret' is the numbers and cases Mr. Huang collected from victims' families. There is no leakage either, since Mr. Huang had not had a chance to put this onto his personal website. Therefore, the alleged crime "Illegal Procession" of national secret makes you chill.

Who owns information?

An ancient Chinese saying is "a person lost innocence if he carries a treasure (庶人无罪怀璧其罪)", regardless where does he find the treasure". It's an reflection of a doctrine that everything under the sun belongs to the King. Now, everything in the world, tangible or not, belongs to the CCP.

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