China’s first children’s protection lawsuit filed by Beijing social organisation

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Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center (BCLARC) on June 1 officially filed a case against Tencent to the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court over the mobile game Honor of Kings. This is the first public litigation case in China filed by a social organisation for children’s protection.

Honor of Kings, designed around well-known characters from Chinese history like the Qin dynasty’s first emperor Ying Zheng and 8th century poet Li Bai, is a mobile role-playing game developed by Tencent. In 2017, according to related reports, more than 500 million of the game’s users were below the age of 19, with the game’s age limit being 16 and above.

In 2021, Tencent lowered the age limit for users to 12 and above, despite what BCLARC regards as the game’s inappropriate content for children at that age.

According to BCLARC, Tencent has not strictly complied with relevant laws and regulations on user registration, real-name verification, and addictive content management for minors, enabling many minors, especially left-behind children in rural areas, to spend excessive amounts of time playing the game. As a result, the BCLARC said such trends endanger the health rights of minors by likely causing myopia, tendonitis, or obesity. The organisation also referenced research from a National People’s Congress deputy on the connection between internet addiction and sleep disorders.

Citing the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, the BCLARC claims the game has severely violated the legal rights of minors. Because Tencent allegedly failed to restrict minors from spending time on the game, BCLARC holds that the company infringed on the property rights of minors, their guardians, and close relatives.

China Development Brief asked Tencent’s media department to comment after reaching their juvenile gamer supervision hotline. Neither got back to CDB with a comment about the lawsuit before this article’s publication date.

The BCLARC stated the distorted portrayal of historical figures violates the “Mobile Game Content Specification (2016 Edition),” and the frequent vulgar language in the game violates the “Provisions on the Administration of Online Publishing Services,” among other regulations.