China cracks down on military ‘fans’, threatens prison for sharing photos online – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: China has recently issued a stern warning to its “military fans,” cautioning that they could face up to seven years in prison for posting photographs of military equipment online. This move comes as part of the country’s increasing focus on national security, particularly in light of rising tensions with the United States.
According to a CNN report, the warning, issued in a WeChat post by the Ministry of State Security, highlighted that some military enthusiasts have been compromising national military security by illegally obtaining and sharing information about national defense on the internet. The post said, “With a focus on military airports, ports, national defense and military industrial units, they drove to or took ferries or planes that pass by designated routes, and clandestinely photographed with telephoto lenses or drones.”
The ministry of state security, a highly secretive civilian spy agency, oversees intelligence and counterintelligence both within China and overseas. It noted that while first-time or occasional offenders might only receive a warning, repeat violators could face significant prison time.
The agency’s concern is that images shared online can reveal details about the progress of construction on warships or aircraft, as well as operational and technical specifics of Chinese military hardware. The post specifically mentioned concerns about aircraft carriers, with China’s newest carrier, the Fujian, being a frequent subject of amateur spotters. The Fujian, a formidable 80,000-ton warship, is seen as a competitor to the latest carriers of the US Navy and is outfitted with a sophisticated electromagnetic catapult system. The Fujian has been closely monitored as it undergoes outfitting at a Shanghai shipyard, with images and videos often captured from commercial flights passing nearby, the CNN report said.
In contrast, US law also restricts the photography of certain military installations and equipment, with violators facing potential imprisonment. However, militaries, including the US, sometimes leverage open-source intelligence for strategic purposes. For instance, Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, mentioned that photos of a mockup of China’s next-generation stealth fighter jet could be used by the PLA Navy to incite speculation and keep adversaries guessing.
The clampdown by Chinese authorities reflects their heightened vigilance against the risks posed by the sharing of sensitive military information in the digital age, where amateur photography can inadvertently reveal critical defense details to a global audience.


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