China’s National Security Laws Are Now More Intrusive

July 1, 2015 Updated: July 2, 2015

China’s rubber-stamp legislature passed sweeping laws on Wednesday, July 1, that increase the Communist Party’s control and politicization of all aspects of society, including cyberspace, cultural products, and finance, bringing them all under the rubric of “national security.”

Because the Chinese communist ideology conflates the nation with the Party, China analysts and academics said that the broadening of China’s security laws will give the Party’s security apparatus and the courts more power and ability to prosecute individuals or groups who are perceived to be threats.

The vaguely worded National Security Law is one of several new regulatory moves by China that worry privacy advocates and have foreign businesses concerned about potential harm to their operations inside the country.

The law calls for strengthened management over the Web and tougher measures against online attacks, theft of secrets, and the spread of illegal or harmful information.

It said core information technology, critical infrastructure, and important systems and data must be “secure and controllable” in order to protect China’s sovereignty over its cyberspace.

The law offered no details on how China would achieve the goals, although a vast Internet monitoring system has been in place for years.

China said it is a major target of hacking and other cyberattacks, and the Communist Party has expended vast efforts in blocking online content it deems subversive or illegal.

China is also accused of running a state-sponsored effort to hack computers and steal government and commercial secrets overseas, while also spying on and harassing pro-democracy, Tibetan, and human rights groups based abroad.

Most recently, Beijing was suspected as being behind a massive hack into a U.S. federal government computer server that resulted in the theft of personnel and security clearance records of 14 million employees and contractors. Chinese officials always deny engaging in such actions.

The National Security Law, passed overwhelmingly by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress—the 154 “Yes” votes and no objections underscoring the Chinese legislature’s rubber stamp tag—replaces a law that focused more narrowly on counterespionage.

In addition to cyberspace, the new legislation covers a wide range of areas including the economy, social stability, territorial integrity, the military, culture, finance, technology, the environment, and food safety.

Spokeswoman Zheng Shu’na said an overarching legislation was needed to deal with “ever-growing security challenges.”

“Externally speaking, the country must defend its sovereignty, as well as security and development interests, and … it must also maintain political security and social stability,” Zheng was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The new law is an extension of the hard line on security and repeated warnings against foreign ideological subversion.

The new law is an extension of the hard line on security and repeated warnings against foreign ideological subversion issued by the administration of Party leader Xi Jinping, who in 2013 established an overarching National Security Commission to coordinate such efforts with him as chairman.

A separate anti-terrorism proposal could require network operators and service providers fighting for a share of China’s $465 billion technology market to build in “backdoors” for surveillance, hand over encryption keys to Chinese authorities and store user data within China.

Companies worry that could undermine their ability to send encrypted emails or operate the kind of private corporate networks commonly used to secure communications.

Other new regulations already require Chinese banks to have 75 percent of their IT infrastructure certified as “secure and controllable” by the Chinese regime by 2019.

The new law won’t apply to Hong Kong and Macau, two Chinese territories that have their own governing legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.