China adopts new national security law

Jul 02, 2015 12:00 AM

China's top legislature on Wednesday adopted a new national security law that touches on a broad range of subjects from the military to the economy, cyber security and space exploration as the country faces "growing security challenges."

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Zheng Shuna, a spokeswoman with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said "We are under dual pressures ... Externally, the country must defend its sovereignty, security and development interests, and internally, it must also maintain political security and social stability."

She also said the connotation and denotation of national security is more wide-ranging than in any other time in history.

The new law, which was signed into force by President Xi Jinping late Wednesday, highlights cyberspace as well as punishing illegal cult activities. It also protects China's rights to explore outer space, the deep sea and polar regions.

The law had undergone two drafts before being signed into effect.

Compared to previous drafts, the final version emphasizes the NPC's right of judicial interpretation for law enforcers' investigation into suspected threats to national security, Wang Guoxiang, an associate professor of anti-terrorism at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Previous drafts empowered law enforcers to conduct investigations as long as they deemed their activities were in accordance with the law, while now only the NPC has the right to interpret the legality of their work, he said.

The previous national security law, which took effect in 1993, mainly regulates the work of the country's national security agencies. It was renamed the Counterespionage Law in 2014.

Cyberspace sovereignty
One key element of the new law is a clause on cyberspace sovereignty. China will make Internet and information technology, infrastructure, information systems and data in key sectors "secure and controllable," it read.

The country will strengthen its capability to protect cyber and information security, and enhance Internet and IT research, development and application.

Zheng said cyberspace sovereignty is the embodiment and extension of national sovereignty, adding that the Internet is an important aspect of the nation's infrastructure.

"Internet space within the People's Republic of China is subject to the country's sovereignty," she said.

Putting forward cyber security in the new law has once again triggered fears in foreign companies over being controlled by the Chinese government in the name of national security.

However, Yan Hanbing, a senior official of the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center, told the Global Times that the law clearly outlines which kind of activity poses threats to national security, such as network attacks and cyber spying.

According to the law, items that have or may have an impact on national security will be censored, including foreign investment, specific materials and key technologies, network and information technology products and services, and projects involving national security.

"Censoring key technologies, network and information technology products and services is a common practice in other countries," Yan said, citing Chinese telecom giant Huawei that was blocked from doing business in the US as an example.

The US accused Huawei, which was suspected of having ties with the Chinese government by Washington, of spying and banned the company from selling telecommunications equipment to US carriers.

Hong Kong, Macao
The new national security law also for the first time mentions Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in several of its clauses, including one that says all Chinese people, including those in the three territories, "have a common obligation to uphold national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity."

Zheng said the law will not be directly implemented in Hong Kong and Macao, although the two territories do have an obligation under the Basic Law to make their own legislation.

Zou Pingxue, a professor at Shenzhen University who specializes in Hong Kong's Basic Law, told the Global Times that "the inclusion is a reminder to Hong Kong of its responsibilities to legislate on national security instead of dodging the issue, while Macao enacted its own National Security Law in 2009."

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Wednesday that Hong Kong has "no plan" to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that the city's government must "enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition [or] subversion against" Beijing.

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