In the midst of the Chen Guangcheng story exploding, I came across this story ((Apologies, I don’t remember where I first saw it, probably via someone on Twitter)). It is not related to Chen Guangcheng, but it is so absurd that I thought it was worth sharing (and it’s been too long since we ran a translation anyway).
Translation: Fujian Man Sentenced for Filming Secret Military Plane
Mr. Huang, a disabled man from Yongtai, didn’t listen to the warnings of passers-by, and filmed and uploaded video of a military aircraft at the Jixu airport. Little did he know he was violating the law. Several days ago, the Yongtai Country Court found Huang guilty of intentionally leaking national secrets and sentenced him to one year and two months in prison, with a suspended sentence of 1.5 years.
In August of 2009, Huang was driving his cart to Cangshan district, to visit his son who was working in Huangshan. As he drove past Yixu airfield, he got curious, and used a digital camera to film an Yixu road sign, the airfield, and several military planes. As he was filming, a pedestrian warned him: “You can’t film that, they’ll arrest you,” but Huang didn’t care, and kept filming, in total filming for over one minute.
After he returned to Yongtai, he put the video onto his public [QQ, probably] space online, and titled the video: “On the way to Huangshan, Fuzhou, I passed Yixu airport military planes, and got very excited seeing them up close, because it was my first time seeing a plane, so I filmed them…” He also wrote: “I am not a spy!” Before it was deleted by the relevant organs, this video was viewed more than 15,000 times.
This video was appraised by the Air Force’s Fuzhou secrecy committee, and found three classified items and three secret items, constituting serious breaches of national and military security.
The Yongtai Court held that the accused Mr. Huang had violated regulations in the Protecting National Secrets Law, as he clearly knew that his video of Yixu airport related to classified military secrets, yet he still distributed it via the internet, which is serious enough to be considered intentional dissemination of state secrets. In light of his confession, his expression of regret, and his disability, the court handed down the aforementioned sentence.
Now, it goes without saying that Mr. Huang certainly had some opportunities to avoid his predicament here, but I still find it ridiculous. Warnings from a random pedestrian or no, was it so irrational for Huang to assume that secret military vehicles might be kept somewhere that isn’t visible to anyone passing by on the road? Might the authorities at least have posted a sign that said “No Photography” or something? Railroading some poor farmer who got excited at seeing army planes seems like a poor way to protect national security. I’m not a general ((Yes, my name is Custer, har har shut up.)) or anything, but if those planes were important military secrets, maybe they should be hidden? If a disabled man can stumble across them on his way to somewhere totally different, how secret could they really be?
The story reminds me of my own most recent brush with this kind of illogical mentality. Several weeks ago, I went to one of the Beijing offices that deals with petitioners to get a pickup shot for our film. It’s totally tangential, and I just needed a shot of the building, from the street, for a couple seconds — just enough to show that the place exists. Predictably, though, my footage was spiced up by a plainclothes officer who came running over and explained to me that I couldn’t take any pictures of the building because it was a national organ, and therefore a secret.
Of course I’m grateful that he was kind enough to turn that boring footage into something a bit more interesting, but the logic behind this baffles me. We’re talking about a gigantic building with a clear sign labeling what it is in the middle of one of the most populous cities on earth. It’s clearly labeled in online maps. It has its own official website. What damage could an exterior photograph of the building possibly do?
That’s not the point, of course. It’s all about control, not logic.