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Release of China’s draft security law sparks fears of further erosion of citizens’ freedoms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 7:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 7:12pm
Verna Yu
[email protected]

The newly released draft of China’s national security law, which covers a range of topics including stressing the preservation of the Communist Party’s political regime, has stoked fears citizens’ freedoms will be further eroded under the pretext of state security.

The full text of the sweeping draft law, which underwent its second reading during a session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last month, was revealed for the first time late Wednesday after being posted on the legislature’s website for public consultation.

The first clause of the law stated that the purpose of the law was to “safeguard national security, defend the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics”, to protect the people’s fundamental interests, the smooth-running of economic reforms, the modernisation of socialism, as well as the “realisation of the great rejuvenation of the nation”.

The draft law defined in its second clause that “national security” meant that the political regime, sovereignty, national unification, territorial integrity, people’s welfare and the “sustainable and healthy development” of its economy and society, as well as other unspecified “major national interests” should be “relatively free from danger and not under internal and external threats”.

Efforts on national security issues would adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party to establish “a centralised, efficient and authoritative national security leadership system”, the draft law said.

Moreover, it said the safeguarding of national sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity was also the responsibility of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese compatriots.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a law researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he was alarmed at the “strong ideology flavour” of the draft law and the fact that “a strong link has been drawn between the nation and the one-party political system”.

“[The idea that] the challenge and threat to the political regime is a threat to national security is being reinforced,” he said.

The sweeping law covers a wide range of areas, from ideology and religion to military and technology. It also deals with the threat of terrorism, religious cults, interference of religious issues by “overseas forces” and stresses the importance of ethnic harmony.

One clause deals with the strengthening of socialist core values, “the grasping of initiatives of ideological sphere” and the prevention of the infiltration of “harmful moral standards”.

Other clauses deal with the protection of industries and sectors deemed vital to the economy, the economy and socialist market economy systems, grain security, the establishment of systems for the protection of cyber and information security, as well as the prevention of social conflicts, including food and drug safety issues.

President Xi Jinping , who is the head of the newly established National Security Commission, has said national security should cover a wide range of areas, including politics, culture, the military, the economy, technology and the environment.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said national security laws, according to international law and standards, should be drawn “narrowly” and “with precision” with reference to specific threats, but this draft law would solidify many problematic concepts that have little connection to national security, such as maintaining “internet sovereignty” through censorship, promoting socialist core values, defending against “unhealthy” culture, and limiting freedom of religion.

“Over the past 30 years or more, the Chinese government has gradually given more freedom to people in areas of life deemed to be non-sensitive. However, this law seems to be seeking to aggressively reassert control over many aspects of Chinese life in the name of national security,” he said.

While the draft said “socialist rule of law” principles, human rights, citizen’s rights and freedom should be respected, Nee said the law lacked accountability mechanisms to safeguard against violations of human rights.

Patrick Kar-wai POON ???
Candidate for Ph.D. in Laws
Faculty of Law
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
[email protected]