China adopts controversial law on cybersecurity

BEIJING: China today adopted a sweeping cybersecurity law which it said was aimed at safeguarding national security and sovereignty against hacking and terrorism, triggering concerns among rights groups and foreign companies in the Communist nation.

The new law was passed by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp parliament.

According to the new law, the government will take measures to “monitor, defend and handle cybersecurity risks and threats originating from within the country or overseas sources, protecting key information infrastructure from attack, intrusion, disturbance and damage”.

Efforts will also be made to punish criminal activities online and safeguard the order and security of cyberspace, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Under the new law, individual users and organisations are not allowed to jeopardise security on the Internet or use it to “damage national security, honour and interests”.

Online activities that are attempts to overthrow the socialist system, split the nation, undermine national unity, advocate terrorism and extremism are all prohibited, according to the provisions, which also forbade activities including inciting ethnic hatred, discrimination and spreading violence and obscene information online.

The law was passed at the bimonthly session of the NPC Standing Committee, which concluded today, after a third reading.

China administers internet with massive firewalls to protect from outside interventions.

It also effectively banned social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, and controls the local social media sites like Weibo through the firewalls blocking any content that harms the ruling Communist Party of China and the government.

China, often accused of backing cyberattacks on other countries and foriegn firms, has bolstered cybersecurity since Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed power four years ago.

Reacting sharply to the new law, Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, James Zimmerman said, “We believe this is a step backwards for innovation in China that won’t do much to improve security.

“The Chinese government is right in wanting to ensure the security of digital systems and information here, but this law doesn’t achieve that. What it does do is create barriers to trade and innovation,” he said in a statement.

“Broad restrictions on cross-border data flows, for example, provide no security benefits but will create barriers to Chinese as well as foreign companies operating in industries where data needs to be shared internationally. “Moreover, some of the requirements for national security reviews and data sharing will unnecessarily weaken security and potentially expose personal information,” Zimmerman said.

The new Chinese law was also slammed by Human Rights Watch.

“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes,” said Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch.

“The already heavily censored Internet in China needs more freedom, not less,” she said in a statement.

The Chinese government has a long record of tightly controlling online speech through censorship, harsh punishments, and the use of restrictive technologies. But Internet control has reached new heights since President Xi assumed power in March 2013, the New York-based rights group said.


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