Media regulation

No book deal for Qiu Xinghua

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Qiu Xinghua, the mass-murder who was executed last week, wrote his memoirs while in prison. According to his lawyer, this was intended to be a "negative example" to readers, and Qiu was worried that if he were found to be not guilty by reason of insanity, sales would be suffer. Publishing his story of the events surrounding his slaying of ten people at a Daoist temple would certainly be controversial, and it's not hard to imagine the wrangling over royalties that would ensue.

But the issue won't come up. An article in Tuesday's Mirror notes that Qiu's conviction stripped him of his political rights, which include not only the right to vote and hold office, serve in government, and occupy a leadership position in a state-owned enterprise (all of which are useless to him now, anyway), but also the right to freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession, and demonstration. According to the lawyer quoted in the article, since Qiu's right to freedom of the press was revoked, his autobiography cannot be published, even posthumously.

Another right it turned out that Qiu did not have was the "right to a final goodbye" (临终告别权). On 29 December, the day after the execution, the Mirror ran a full-page story reporting on how various people were informed of the situation. Qiu's wife got all of her information from reporters; both the court and Qiu's lawyer denied having any responsibility to inform family members of the execution time.

Chinese law allows the court to permit family members to visit the condemned, but it is under no compunction to do so. The Shaanxi court where Qiu was tried said that an emotional final visit could cause unexpected problems, and distraught family members could pose a threat to the safety of the execution procedure. The article quotes another lawyer who recommends adding family notification and visitation rights to the law, and notes that several jurisdictions, including Beijing and Foshan, have already begun trials.

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