China expands law to allow greater monitoring of foreigners

New Bill gives agents greater power to probe foreigners to ‘protect national security’

Chinese president Xi Jinping. There has been a series of tough legislation during the government of president  Jinping aimed at tightening control. File photograph: Jason Lee-Pool/Getty Images

Chinese president Xi Jinping. There has been a series of tough legislation during the government of president Jinping aimed at tightening control. File photograph: Jason Lee-Pool/Getty Images

 

The Chinese government has released a draft intelligence law that will give the country’s vast security apparatus greater power to investigate and monitor foreigners in the name of protecting national security.

According to the Bill, state intelligence agencies will be able to give support “to guard against security threats and protect major national interests” and authorities will have the right “to monitor and investigate domestic and foreign individuals and organisations to protect national security”.

Intelligence operatives could “set up relevant sites, equipment or facilities”, and if necessary, raid premises while investigating domestic and foreign individuals and groups.

Vehicles, communication devices and property can be used or seized by authorities during intelligence gathering operations. Owners would be compensated, it said.

There has been a series of tough legislation during the government of president Xi Jinping aimed at tightening control, adding to already stringent rules governing state secrets and security.

“Under the backdrop of globalisation, the covert struggles between different countries and regions have become more complex, so Chinese citizens need to be educated to build and enhance their sense of intelligence,” Yang Jianying, a professor at the University of International Relations, told the Global Times newspaper.

Meanwhile Su Wei, a professor at the Communist Party School in Chongqing, said while China was more open to the world, citizens needed to keep national security in mind when communicating with overseas sources.

“Personal information leaks are severe. So leaks in the country’s intelligence will bring even greater damage,” Mr Su told the paper.

Stealing state secrets or subversion charges are the most commonly applied pretexts for jailing dissidents in China.

In recent days, the government has passed a revised version of a surveying and mapping law intended to safeguard the security of China’s geographic information.

Last year, authorities changed the law governing foreign non-governmental organisations, placing them directly under the jurisdiction of the security ministry, while new cyber-security laws mean businesses must store key business data inside China, which foreign companies see as a competitive disadvantage. There has also been closer scrutiny of foreign academics and journalists.

Last month, the Beijing government introduced a scheme offering cash bounties of up to 500,000 yuan (€68,500) for anyone who reports on foreign espionage activities, part of efforts to build “an iron Great Wall” to combat evil and guard against nefarious foreign spies.

The draft intelligence law has been published on the website of the standing committee of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), ostensibly for public feedback, but the legislation is almost certain to be passed.