Chinese state corruption is so weird and manifest that it has its own literary movement, and the use of the internet to uncover corruption has become a political football that has spilled over into the Chinese press, and into street-brawls.
But the anti-corruption faction in the Chinese government itself has enormous power and drive, and it has issued a decree informing the public and police that it's always legal to record the police when they're doing their jobs ("as long as it does not stop them from doing their job") — this in the wake of the police murder and coverup of Lei Yang, an environmental scientist.
Of course, in general it's legal for Americans to video-record police, but the police are unhappy about it, despite evidence that it works, and legislators are sympathetic to their pleas, and US cops routinely sabotage their own cameras and seize or smash witness cameras when things go wrong, all with near-total impunity.
As in America, many of the activities that are nominally legal in China are routinely suppressed, so it remains to be seen whether this edict is a PR exercise or a course-change.
Although this move might be seen as the Chinese authorities giving new powers to the people against the police, it's probably better thought of as using the people to root out the bad apples of the kind mentioned in the SCMP piece. As such it's of a piece with President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corrupt officials who abuse their power, seen most recently in the sentence of the top Chinese general Guo Boxiong, who was jailed for life for taking bribes.
In other words, while citizens use this new permission to aid Xi in his purge of unwanted elements in the system, they will be welcome to record the police as much as they like. However, if they start making life awkward for the authorities by passing around the "wrong" kind of recordings, we can probably expect this newfound power to be rescinded quite quickly.
Chinese free to film police – as long as they don't get in the way
[South China Morning Post]
(Image: Chinese soldier on Tienanmen Square, Luo Shaoyang, CC-BY)