Montesquieu

The laws of China sti­pu­late that whoe­ver shows dis­res­pect for the empe­ror shall be puni­shed by death. As they do not define what this dis­res­pect is, any­thing can fur­nish a pre­text to take the life of anyone at all, and to exter­mi­nate any family at all.

When two per­sons res­pon­si­ble for wri­ting the court gazette had inclu­ded cir­cum­stan­ces in some anec­dote which were found to be untrue, someone said that to lie in a court gazette was to show dis­res­pect for the court, and they were put to death.1 A prince of the blood having dis­trac­tedly pla­ced a note on a memo­rial signed with red brush by the empe­ror, it was deci­ded he had shown dis­res­pect for the empe­ror, which unlea­shed against that family of one of the most hor­ren­dous per­se­cu­tions that his­tory has ever recor­ded.2

All it takes is for the crime of lese-majesty to be vague for the govern­ment to dege­ne­rate into des­po­tism. I shall speak more exten­si­vely on this sub­ject in the book on the com­po­si­tion of laws.3

Father du Halde, vol. I, p. 43.

Letters of Father Parrenin in Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.

[Book XXIX.]