China Passes Controversial National Security Law

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Originally published by Voice Of America on July 1, 2015

China’s parliament has adopted a sweeping new national security law that critics say will further enshrine and expand the country’s suppression of political dissent.

The largely ceremonial National People’s Congress passed the bill Wednesday with 144 yes votes and one abstention, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The law allows authorities to “take all necessary” measures to safeguard territorial sovereignty and ensure full control over the country’s already tightly censored Internet.

The bill is Beijing’s response to a national security situation that has become “increasingly severe,” according to Zheng Shu’na with the NPC Standing Committee.

“We will continue to follow the path of peaceful development but we absolutely will not give up our legitimate rights and absolutely will not sacrifice the country’s core interests,” said Zheng at a news conference.

Rights groups have said the law gives too much power to security agencies and though wide-ranging, is not specific enough about what constitutes a crime.

“[The law] would legalize the Chinese government’s systematic suppression of political, ethnic, and religious dissent and crack down on civil liberties,” said the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group earlier this year, referring to the draft version of the bill.

“The draft includes a broad and ill-defined definition of ‘national security,’ and provisions that would allow prosecution of dissenting views, religious beliefs, information online, and challenges to China’s ‘cyber sovereignty,'” the rights group said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Zheng defended the bill, saying “any government will stand firm and not leave any room for disputes, compromises and interferences when it comes to protecting its core interests.”

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made national security a top concern. Last year, he chaired the first meeting of China’s national security commission.

Among the country’s major security challenges are its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas and rising unrest related to the Xinjiang region. China says it is also a top target of cyberattacks.

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