China: State Security Law Amendment

The latest amendment on State Security Law was submittend to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for review yesterday. The drafted law requires telecom operators and Internet service providers to cooperate with public security and State security authorities on investigations of possible State secret leaks.

According to existing practice, Telecom operators and ISPs have been providing the public security and state security authorities users’ information for facilitation investigations of crimes such as criminal libels, rumors, subversive activities and state secrets. For example, Yahoo! provided information on Shi Tao's case in 2005 and Tan Zuoren's case last year 2009. The former was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment under the charge of leaking state secret while the latter was sentence to 5-year imprisonment for defaming the Communist Party of China in email comments about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

International Internet operators, such as Google has criticized the lack of legal bases and transparency in the implementation of law in China, the latest amendment will legitimatize current practice. In the draft law, according to China Daily's report, rather than identifying a clear list / scope of secrets, such as budgetary, finance and military informations, a State secret is defined “as information concerning national security and interests that, if released, would harm the country's security and interests” and the confidentiality of files is defined by the expiration dates set by the government.

China Daily quotes law experts and explains the rationality and context behind the law amendment:

Experts said the changes come as new requirements on solving cases concerning State secrets have emerged in new contexts.

Officials have blamed phone text messages as a tool for criminals to instigate the deadly July 5 riot last year in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

“We now have more media carrying information, rather than just the paper documents of the past. Without cooperation from network carriers and service providers, authorities alone could not collect evidence or sort out the cases,” said Ma Huaide, a law professor of China University of Political Science and Law.


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