The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command announced on WeChat on Tuesday it had discharged a soldier after learning of numerous conduct violations, including disclosing military secrets to family and friends.
According to the report, a soldier by the surname Chen bought a second-hand smartphone, which is against PLA regulations, and used it to send military-related photos over messaging apps such as WeChat. He also reportedly disclosed his status as an active-duty soldier when playing games on the phone.
At an “education conference” attended by his entire brigade, Chen was required to write a confession and self-criticize. Afterward, the brigade’s Communist Party of China committee decided to give Chen an “early retirement,” booting him from the service. His commanding officer also received an administrative warning.
After the education conference, the brigade held several class discussions to reinforce the lessons from Chen’s punishment.
“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,” PLA instructor Zhang Peng was quoted as saying in the story.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, told the South China Morning Post that cellphones can easily spread a lot of sensitive information about soldiers, including their whereabouts.
“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,” he said.
However, despite its strictness, the PLA has relaxed its rules surrounding cellphones in recent years. In 2018, Beijing began allowing soldiers to use mobile phones on civilian networks during personal time, while on leave and during holidays, times that had previously required explicit permission, according to China News Service.
However, the new regulations also require soldiers to register their phones as well as social media accounts, and they note that soldiers should refrain from giving sensitive data to service providers, including social networks, new media platforms and online shopping websites. Educational activities were held across the Chinese military in the past week to raise awareness about protecting soldiers’ privacy and the nation’s secrets.