New Rule Allows Chinese Authorities to Check People’s Devices

New Rule Allows Chinese Authorities to Check People’s Devices
Police officers (R) check the passport of a foreigner (L) at a security gate of an entrance to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 2020. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Hong
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China has announced new regulations set to take effect in July, significantly expanding the powers of law enforcement personnel to gather evidence. These changes will impact both Chinese nationals returning home and tourists visiting China. Critics see this move as a response to the unprecedented crisis facing the regime, prompting advisories for people to avoid traveling to China.

As outlined in the Legal Daily, the new regulations grant law enforcement the authority to inspect electronic devices directly in emergency situations, with the presentation of police or reconnaissance credentials. However, the rules lack clear definitions of what constitutes an emergency or its parameters.

Tang Jingyuan, a China affairs commentator based in the U.S., believes these measures align with a recent Chinese Ministry of State Security campaign to curb the influx of foreign information.

“It will push society towards a wartime mechanism and serve as a soft form of isolationist measures,” Mr. Tang told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times.

Previously, in the April 29 issue of Study Times, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) highest internal training institution, Minister of State Security Chen Yixin, highlighted the ministry’s focus on combating subversion, hegemony, separatism, terrorism, and espionage.

Commentator Lai Jianping, a former lawyer, believes the CCP is facing an unprecedented crisis that will lead to further restrictions on civil freedom through heightened social control.

“These regulations will only breed more discontent among the people. People know it violates the regime’s own laws and constitution, as well as the United Nations’ Human Rights Convention,” Mr. Lai told The Epoch Times.

While individuals may not know how to resist these decisions, their frustration will intensify, leading to a continued decline in the party’s ruling legitimacy, he said.

Travel Warnings

“The stronger the sense of crisis a regime has, the stronger its desire for control,” said political commentator Chen Daoyin, formerly an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and now based in Chile, to Voice of America (VOA).

Mr. Chen noted that the regime’s customs department has been conducting random inspections of electronic devices of individuals entering the country for the past few years. The recent move aims to standardize administrative and law enforcement procedures through legislation.

He advised Chinese travelers abroad to purchase new mobile phones for local use to ensure “physical isolation,” cautioning that deleted WhatsApp messages can still be recovered.

As for those who might be a target of the regime, such as active human rights groups in the free world, individuals involved in movements such as Xinjiang and Tibetan independence, and adherents of Falun Gong, “To be honest, if you anticipate investigation upon your return, it’s best not to return,” according to Mr. Chen, as reported by VOA.

Numerous reports indicate that police in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities have intercepted people’s mobile phones on streets or in subway carriages for several years. Following the White Paper Movement in 2022, security checks were extended to residents’ homes.

Shanghai resident Mr. Zhou (pseudonym) told The Epoch Times about being coerced by police to surrender his mobile phone for inspection. “They wanted me to go to the police station because I shared posts on people’s livelihoods. Many officers were present. I stood my ground and told them, ‘First of all, what you’re doing is illegal, and secondly, the procedures are not legal.’”

Travelers to China are advised to exercise caution in Taiwan. In May 2023, Tsai Ming-yan, director of the National Security Bureau of the Republic of China, extended this warning to Taiwanese businessmen, foreign businessmen, foreign journalists, and human rights activists.

Haizhong Ning and Luo Ya contributed to this report.
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