Legal Expertise on CCTV Dialogue: Cyber Hunting and Cyber Bullying

The suicide of 18 year old An Qi sparks debate throughout China about the phenomenon of Cyber Bullying and Cyber Hunting. To tackle the issues of real and virtual bullying, CCTV’s Tian Wei sits down with long-time “China-hand” and legal expert Edward Lehman, of LEHMAN, LEE & XU and Professor Shi Anbin of Tsinghua University on December 20th, 2013. Edward Lehman and Professor Shi Anbin were asked to comment on the difference between Cyber Bullying and Cyber Hunting, the negative or positive public contributions of Cyber Hunting, whether Cyber Bullying and Cyber Hunting are moral or legal issues in China and throughout the world.

To introduce Cyber Bullying, the story of an 18-year-old girl was told; a girl who fell victim to Cyber Hunting, then suffered inevitable Cyber Bullying, and finally committed suicide as a result of the online abuse that she underwent. A retail store owner claimed that the girl, An Qi, was a thief and released the online hounds of social media on a “human flesh search” to find her. After Cyber Bullying that overflowed into her personal life and educational life, An Qi tragically committed suicide. Her poignant story ignites debate concerning the power of the internet and social media as tools to promote public safety or devices of convenient bullying and abuse by everyone and against everyone.

Cyber bullying, according to educator Bill Belsey, “is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner.” On the other hand, Cyber Hunting (or Internet Vigilantism), is the phenomenon of vigilant acts taken through the Internet or carried out using applications that depend on the Internet. How does this growing phenomenon affect netizens, not only in China, but around the world?

In attempting to better define Cyber Bullying, Professor Shi Anbin notes that two crucial inquiries need to be made, “do the actions taken by members of the social media involve malice,” and “at what point do the laws of the real world apply to the virtual one.” He further deconstructs the environment of bullying, whether real or virtual, to involve the powerful community finding outlets to abuse the weaker one; masses collected online, hunting and sometimes bullying a single individual. However, the internet, in its infinite speed and power, has the ability to change the definition of who is powerful and who is the next to be bullied. In the case of An Qi, shortly after her suicide, human flesh searches were initiated against the store owner who accused her from the beginning and his power was turned viciously against him.

Edward Lehman notes that An Qi was never accused by the police or any other legal authority, despite the action taken by social media. The actions were those of vigilantism which he notes, “could be positive but when the public is not abreast of all the information it is dangerous for them to act as judge, jury, executioner.” Without decisions by a court or official police action, Cyber Hunting and Internet Vigilantism can have vast reaching repercussions. Further Edward Lehman notes that bullying in the real world has unique differences from bullying online. Cyber Bullying invades the home, the “always carried” smart phone, and beyond the walls that may have protected victims in the past. Victims are particularly vulnerable when they feel that can’t appeal for emotional or mental aid as they suffer through the online torment. The public interest is of utmost concern, this can sometimes be facilitated by Cyber Hunting, but the protection of innocent victims, be it mental, physical, or emotional should be a constant priority and upheld, often times deterring vigilantism.

Edward Lehman is frequently asked to provide his legal and cultural insights as a guest of CCTV. He is the Founder and Managing Director of LEHMAN, LEE & XU China and has served more than 26 consecutive years “on the ground” in dealing with Chinese legal, tax, foreign direct investment, intellectual property, franchise, direct sales, and other business issues.

Edward Lehman is the longest serving Managing Director of any law firm (Chinese or Foreign) in the People’s Republic of China, with more than 21 years in this position. In 1992 Edward Lehman founded LEHMAN, LEE & XU China (making it the 8th private law firm opened in mainland China). He was also the Manager and Chief Ethics Officer of different full service Chinese law firms, providing legal advice on a range of Chinese legal issues.

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LEHMAN, LEE & XU is a prominent Chinese corporate commercial full service law firm with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, a network of 31 cities throughout greater China, and Mongolia. The firm has been recognized as a “Red Chip” corporate commercial law firm in mainland China. LEHMAN, LEE & XU is managed by Edward Lehman, a long-time “China hand” and founder of LehmanBrown CPA. Mr. Lehman is the first foreign lawyer to work at a Chinese law firm since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and has the “dubious distinction” of being the longest serving manager of any law firm in China. He is the legal commentator to China Central Television, a fellow at the China Academy of Social Sciences, and a leading expert on corporate law with more than 26 consecutive years of practice experience in Mainland China.

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