We take up Asia – meaning, here, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and surrounding countries, including the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. As we would expect in light of the greater emphases in these societies on a relational self, the greater priority of community harmony, and hence traditional attitudes toward individual “privacy” as only something hidden or bad (see above, p. 64), legal definitions of and protections for individual privacy rights have emerged only relatively recently. In Hong Kong, for example, individual privacy protections were first introduced as a means necessary to the development of e-commerce – that is, not, as in earlier Western justifications, for the sake of individual autonomy, etc. But the Supreme Court of the PRC established individual privacy rights as “attached” to “reputation right” – that is, the right to have one’s reputation protected from slander or defamation. Privacy violations that lead to serious damage to reputation are thus considered a tort, a personal injury for which the agent can be sued for damages in a civil court. By 2001, the Supreme Court established privacy as its own independent right, justified in part by the view that a violation of individual privacy amounted to a “spiritual harm.” By 2010, new tort liability law was enacted that established privacy as a right among other civil rights (Sui 2011). To be sure, critical caveats must be made here regarding the crucial difference between a law on the books and its enforcement in society. Moreover, the emerging Chinese SCS seems to throw all of these privacy protections into very serious question indeed. However the SCS turns out, these shifts nonetheless represent remarkable transformations over a relatively short time.
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Definitions of and Protections for Individual Privacy Rights