Beijing rolls out new intelligence law, cyber attack response plan

Law could give the authorities new powers to track suspects, raid premises, seize devices

BEIJING • China's legislature passed a new intelligence law yesterday after an unusually brief round of discussions, a draft of which gave new powers to monitor suspects, raid premises and seize vehicles and devices.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of legislation to bolster national security against perceived threats from both within and outside China.

The government gained new powers with a national security law passed in 2014, followed by measures on counter-terrorism, the management of foreign non-government bodies and cyber security, among other subjects.

In a statement on its website yesterday, the standing committee of the National People's Congress said it passed the law, which will go into effect today, without giving further details on it or how its contents had changed since a draft was circulated last month.

State news agency Xinhua said last week that the law was "needed to ensure the nation's security interests are met", and will give the authorities new legal grounds to monitor and investigate foreign and domestic individuals and bodies, in order to protect national security.

The draft showed the authorities will be able to propose Customs and border inspections or "quarantines", as well as "administrative detention" of up to 15 days for those who obstruct their work, or leak related state secrets.

Chinese activists have said they fear intensified state surveillance.

China already has broad laws on state secrets and security, but the new law will allow intelligence officials to enter "restricted access areas" and use "technological reconnaissance measures" when needed.

Vehicles, communication devices and even real estate, such as buildings, can be used or seized by the authorities during intelligence gathering efforts, the draft added.

Meanwhile, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced yesterday that it has formalised a new nationwide cyber attack response plan requiring provinces to upgrade networks and construct expert response teams as part of the centralised reporting system.

The regulations also criminalise any failure by government departments to carry out the plan.

China has increasingly sought to fortify its cyberspace from both internal and external attacks, citing threats to its national infrastructure and political stability.

Last month, dozens of local authorities, including police and industry regulators, were hobbled by the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected more than 30,000 Chinese organisations and 300,000 worldwide in a matter of days.

The national response plan includes a four-tier colour-coded warning system that ranks cyber attacks depending on severity, with red signalling the highest level of alert. It also requires relevant departments to open international channels of communication during the sudden onset of international security threats.

Cyber attacks in China spiked by over 950 per cent between 2014 and last year, according to a PwC survey, with "Internet of Things" connected devices identified as a particular vulnerability.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing rolls out new intelligence law, cyber attack response plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe