Bejing Revises Law on State Secrets

The Wall Street Journal looks at changes to Beijing’s law of state secrets, which does little to clarify the notoriously vague definition of state secrets:

The amendment to the 21-year-old Protection of State Secrets Law, adopted Thursday by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, explicitly extends requirements to Internet companies and telecommunications operators to cooperate with Chinese authorities in investigations into leaks of state secrets. If the companies discover the Internet or other public networks are being used to publish information that involves state secrets, the amended law requires them to report it to relevant authorities, halt the transmissions and preserve records of the activity.

The amendment, which takes effect Oct. 1, is part of a broader effort to strengthen government controls over information flows against challenges posed by technology. But its practical impact on business is likely to be limited. Authorities already have leeway to define state secrets and to punish alleged leaks. All telecom companies and Internet-service providers in China are state-run, and while the law covers private Internet-content companies—including the small number of foreign companies in the sector—they already are required to comply with state secrets rules and other Chinese laws.

The amended law also promotes the wider use of technical measures by government agencies to protect classified information, such as using firewalls and keeping drives with classified information off of public networks. According to a legislative investigation cited by the state-run Xinhua news agency last year, more than 70% of China’s state-secret leaks occur via the Internet.

Xinhua’s English report on the legislative session only makes a brief mention of the law:

Wu said, the Law on Guarding State Secrets has made clear legal liability in guarding state secrets, which will help safeguard the state security and interests.

April 29, 2010 3:13 PM
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