China revises state secrets law to include Internet

China adopted a revised law on state secrets, designed to adapt authorities' wide-ranging powers to officially include telecoms and online communications.

China revises state secrets law to include Internet

China on Thursday adopted a revised law on state secrets, designed to adapt authorities' wide-ranging powers to officially include telecoms and online communications.

The new law retained a broad definition of what constitutes a secret. Earlier this week, authorities also issued definitions of what constituted commercial secrets for China's state-owned corporations.

Rights advocates have long been worried about China's sweeping secrets laws, which in practice are often used to quash dissent or discussion of anything the ruling Communist Party deems sensitive.

"Everyone knows, mobility within society has increased a lot, there are a lot more private companies and middlemen playing a role," said Du Yongsheng, vice director of China's State Secrets Bureau, who did not bring name cards to a news conference he addressed.

"This has made the work of the secrets authorities harder."

In addition to military matters and foreign affairs, the seven categories of secrets included in China's secrets law include secret economic or social development projects, technology secrets, and "other secrets defined by the state secrets authorities".

It requires telecoms and Internet providers to cooperate with authorities in reporting and investigating secrets revealed over their networks. In practice in China, most providers already do.

"This law is designed to protect national security and secrets," said Zhang Yong, policy and regulations director of the State Secrets Bureau.

"Protecting citizens' communications falls under other laws."

The detention last year of four employees of international miner Rio Tinto, at the height of fraught iron ore negotiations, drew international business attention to the risks China's secrets laws pose to foreign investors and their Chinese employees.

The four were convicted in March of accepting bribes and infringing commercial secrets after a partially closed trial, while the verdict for at least two Chinese steel executives in an accompanying closed trial has never been announced.

A Chinese citizen accused of infringing secrets often cannot see the exact charges against him or her, and neither can defence lawyers, legal experts have said, leaving great leeway for prosecutors. Foreign diplomats have had difficulty accessing their citizens' trials in secrets cases.

"If it is approved, the lawyer can see the details of the case," Zhang said. "However, the lawyer himself still has responsibility of protecting the secrets."

Separately, China also passed a law on Thursday that lays out procedures for restitution, particularly in the case of wrongful detention, and establishes responsibility for deaths in custody.

Chinese authorities have sweeping powers to detain without charge, but a number of recent deaths in custody have raised public debate over abuse while in detention.

Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2010, 15:22
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