Beijing widens scope of national security law

Protesters (above) carrying Hong Kong colonial flags and anti-China placards during a march in the city yesterday. Pro-China supporters were also out in force yesterday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty
Protesters (above) carrying Hong Kong colonial flags and anti-China placards during a march in the city yesterday. Pro-China supporters were also out in force yesterday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Protesters carrying Hong Kong colonial flags and anti-China placards during a march in the city yesterday. Pro-China supporters (above) were also out in force yesterday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty
Protesters carrying Hong Kong colonial flags and anti-China placards during a march in the city yesterday. Pro-China supporters (above) were also out in force yesterday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty. PHOTOS: REUTERS

Bill covers areas such as cyber security and religion, and replaces legislation from 1993

BEIJING • China has adopted a new law that expands the scope of national security legislation to cover everything from cyber security, food and religion, to even outer space and the deep sea.

The Bill seeks to "safeguard national security, defend the people's democratic dictatorship and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics", according to a text released yesterday in Beijing.

The law replaces existing legislation from 1993, before Internet monitoring, cyber espionage and food safety became pressing issues for the Chinese authorities.

China's President Xi Jinping, who heads the National Security Commission, has made security concerns a top issue. He chaired the first meeting of the commission in April last year.

"China's national security situation has become increasingly severe," said Ms Zheng Shuna, a senior official at the National People's Congress, adding that China was under pressure to maintain national sovereignty and handle "political security and social security, while dealing with internal society".

SERIOUS SITUATION

China's national security situation has become increasingly severe.

MS ZHENG SHUNA, a senior official at the National People's Congress

The text requires key Internet and information systems to be "secure and controllable", Xinhua said, potentially raising concerns that China will prevent state- owned enterprises and the military from using technology produced by foreign companies. China is seeking to develop domestic alternatives to replace most foreign technology used by banks, the military, state-owned enterprises and key government agencies by 2020, according to sources.

The Bill will advance efforts to build a national cybersafety net that will complement the domestic Internet controls of the "Great Firewall", and aims to safeguard "industries and key areas important to the national economy".

China is expanding its security net at a time when the US is stepping up pressure on Beijing to stop what US officials say are widespread cyber attacks and theft of trade secrets. US officials last month accused Chinese hackers of stealing personal records of as many as four million government workers. In May, the Justice Department alleged two Chinese researchers at US companies conspired with officials at a university in China to steal wireless technology and mass produce it back home. China counters it is the biggest victim of corporate and cyber espionage.

Campaigners say the draft anti-terror law contains measures for a "non-stop strike hard campaign" in Xinjiang, homeland of the Uighur ethnic minority, signalling a crackdown initially intended to last a year could continue indefinitely. China has already rolled out steps to confront what it labels "terrorism" in the far-western region, sentencing to death scores of people while hundreds have been jailed.

The law also mentions Hong Kong, a special administrative region that enjoys widespread freedoms denied to mainland residents. While the new law would not be applied to Hong Kong, where thousands have protested against China's perceived encroachment, the city is part of China and should fulfil its obligations to safeguard national security, said Ms Zheng.

Ms Maya Wang, China researcher for US-based Human Rights Watch, said all governments were justified in having their own national security laws, but the content of China's law had caused concern.

"It includes elements that define criticism of the government as a form of subversion," she said.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing widens scope of national security law'. Print Edition | Subscribe