China has discharged a soldier from the army as punishment for disclosing military secrets via his smartphone.
A soldier surnamed Chen was disciplined for buying a second-hand smartphone, seen by the Chinese army as an unauthorised act, according to an article published on Tuesday on the official WeChat account of the Eastern Theatre Command.
Chen used the phone to discuss military secrets with friends and family members via messaging apps such as WeChat, and sent them military-related photos. Chen also disclosed his service identity when playing mobile phone games, the article said.
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Chen was later required to write a confession and criticise himself in front of other soldiers.
Chen’s case was broadcast to soldiers in a recent education activity for an unspecified brigade in the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, which oversees operations in relation to Taiwan.
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Similar activities were held across the Chinese military in the past week to raise awareness about protecting soldiers’ privacy and the nation’s secrets.
In the article, Zhang Peng, an instructor in the army, said leaking military secrets could bring a lot of harm to both the armed forces and its soldiers.
“Major officials in the army must strengthen the sense of responsibility and concentrate on the army’s various tasks, and never have one second of negligence (that might leak the secrets),” Zhang was quoted as saying.
But the article did not say what kinds of secrets Chen disclosed.
As China further integrates the internet and technology in all walks of life, there is a growing challenge for the military to protect information and secrets.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said protecting the privacy and secrets of the military was equal to protecting military life and the PLA’s combat capabilities.
“If the soldiers cannot use mobile phones according to rules and regulations a lot of sensitive information, such as the army’s location, can be easily leaked to other people,” Song said. “During the internet age, a mobile phone is a platform for all kinds of information and even secrets, so it’s necessary to tighten the rules of using smartphones.”
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In February, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a decree to improve confidentiality, including for important military events, overseas publicity, exchanges with foreign militaries and while attending arms fairs abroad, the official PLA Daily reported at the time. Xi also chairs the powerful Central Military Commission.
In April, Chinese media reported that the army had educated its soldiers not to discard parcels recklessly as the billing addresses contained military information.
The increased confidentiality was part of a revised law in effect since March 1, according to the PLA Daily. The law also improves cryptosecurity for military information and intelligent electronic devices, while a section on disciplinary violations and punishment has also been amended.
But the Chinese military has long been criticised by the United States and other Western countries for a lack of transparency, with any information related to its latest developments potentially deemed “confidential” by its political department.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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