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China warns ‘military fans’ that posting photos online could lead to jail time

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June 17, 2022, China’s third aircraft carrier “Fujian”. The ship is being fitted out at a shipyard in Shanghai, making it a frequent target for amateur observers.

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Seoul, South Korea

In the age of open source information, one of the main ways Western experts monitor the Chinese military is by analyzing photos of the People’s Liberation Army’s new equipment posted online by amateur enthusiasts.

In recent years, as China has rapidly modernized its military, it has become a common sight for China to post photos of warships and military aircraft taken from outside PLA facilities, or from civilian aircraft near sensitive areas. It becomes. And “Military Fan” spreads the information to many people on social media sites like Weibo, which has hundreds of millions of active users.

Not anymore.

“Some military enthusiasts illegally obtain information on national defense, By disseminating it on the Internet, they are seriously endangering the military security of the nation.” internet. ”

“Focusing on military airports, ports, national defense and military-industrial units, they drive to or ride ferries and planes that pass on designated routes and covertly take photos with telephoto lenses and drones. “Photographed,” the top secret civilian spy’s post said. agency.

The agency, which oversees China’s domestic and international intelligence and counterintelligence activities, said repeat offenders could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but “first-time offenders or only occasional offenders” could receive only a warning. There is a possibility that it will happen.

The warning comes as Chinese leaders increasingly focus on ensuring national security in a variety of areas, especially amid rising tensions with the United States.

For example, the agency just launched a social media account earlier this year dedicated to warning citizens about the risk of exposing Chinese secrets to the outside world and calling on them to join the fight against espionage. is.

Images posted online show progress in the construction of warships and aircraft, while also potentially revealing operational and technical details of Chinese military equipment, the intelligence agency said in a post on Saturday. That’s what it means. The post specifically mentioned aircraft carriers as one area where security could be compromised.

China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian, is being fitted out at a shipyard in Shanghai, making it a frequent target for amateur observers. The Jiangnan Shipyard, where the work is being done, is close to the flight path of Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

In November, Paris-based defense news site Naval News reported that Fujian province was testing an advanced electromagnetic catapult system, based on a video posted on Weibo that appeared to be taken from a passenger plane departing from Pudong. reported to have started.

“Related images taken from the airliner have become a common source for tracking the progress of several major (People’s Liberation Army Navy) projects,” Naval News reported.

Fujian is certainly a major project for the People’s Liberation Army Navy. China’s largest warship in history, the 80,000-ton warship is seen as an advanced carrier rival to the Gerald R. ing.

Photos of what appears to be a catapult test have given Western analysts an idea of ​​how the People’s Liberation Army Navy is preparing the carrier for commissioning and combat.

And this isn’t the first time images of Fujian have appeared online.

In April 2023, state broadcaster CCTV reported that Mr. Luo, a “fairly well-known” military enthusiast, was arrested by the Shanghai National Security Bureau in November 2021 for filming an aircraft carrier in Fujian province and sentenced to one year in prison. This was revealed in a news report. .

The report said Luo was using a drone that can take long-range, high-resolution photos.

How images are handled in the United States

China is not alone in being wary of amateur military observers potentially revealing sensitive information.

Under U.S. law, the president can designate certain military facilities and equipment as off-limits to image makers.

The U.S. Code states that “it is unlawful to make photographs, sketches, paintings, drawings, maps, or graphic representations of important military and naval installations or equipment unless appropriate prior authorization is obtained.” It has been described as. Violators can be sentenced to up to one year in prison.

Of course, there are times when the military can use open source information to its advantage, said Karl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command Joint Information Center.

After a photo of what appeared to be a mock-up of China’s next-generation stealth fighter jet surfaced online in September, Schuster told CNN that “the carrier’s position and operations on the deck will be photographed and videotaped. Considering the possibilities, the People’s Liberation Army.” [Navy] It just gives opponents something to think about: “It might be considered worthwhile to stir up speculation about Fujian’s future air force.”

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