China rebuffs protest letter by major powers

BEIJING • China has hit back at a joint letter issued by major powers to pressure Beijing into taking their objections against three new security laws to be passed by the Chinese legislature.

"The West is quite keen on pointing fingers at China's legislation, and many of their opinions have ulterior motives. China has always been patient in dealing with their inquiries, even malicious ones," nationalist tabloid Global Times said yesterday in a commentary.

The American, Canadian, German and Japanese ambassadors signed a letter dated Jan 27 addressed to State Councillor and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, voicing unease about a new counter-terrorism law, a draft cyber security law, and a draft law on management of foreign non-governmental organisations.

In what sources said was a coordinated move, the ambassador of the European Union (EU) Delegation to China, Dr Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, sent a letter expressing similar concerns, dated Jan 28.

The cyber security and counter-terrorism laws codify sweeping powers for the government to combat perceived threats, from widespread censorship to heightened control over certain technologies.

Critics of the counter-terrorism law, for one, say that it could be interpreted in such a way that even non-violent dissidents could fall within its definition of terrorism.

The four ambassadors said areas of the counter-terrorism law, which the National People's Congress passed in December last year, were vague and could create a "climate of uncertainty" among investors. The EU ambassador used the same phrase to describe the law's impact, and both letters expressed an interest in engaging with China as it worked out implementing regulations around the law.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he hoped other countries would respect China's sovereignty.

"The counter-terrorism law will not affect relevant businesses' normal operations and it will not affect relevant personnel's legitimate interests."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'China rebuffs protest letter by major powers'. Print Edition | Subscribe