New rules let China’s state security police check people’s devices

Radio Free Asia

Police can show their ID to gather electronic data to find out whether a criminal or illegal act has taken place.

China’s state security police will be given sweeping powers to search electronic devices including smartphones and laptops from July 1, as part of a nationwide campaign to ensure “national security,” a broad term often used by the government to include detailed economic data and political dissent.

The documents issued by the Ministry of State Security on April 26 empower its officers to gather “electronic data” relating to an investigation including “mobile phone text messages, emails, instant messages and group chats,” along with “documents, images, audio and video, apps and … log records” from electronic devices.

Police may “make inquiries” simply by presenting their police ID card, and may “collect evidence” if at least two officers present their ID card, according to the rules on administrative cases.

“The collection and extraction of electronic data shall be carried out by two or more investigators,” the orders read.

However, police can investigate purely to determine “basic information about the suspect,” and even whether an illegal or criminal act has taken place.

Billed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s official Legal Daily newspaper as a set of guidelines for implementing the “national security concept,” the documents come amid an ongoing nationwide campaign to encourage people to spot any kind of behavior that could “endanger national security,” including being on the lookout for foreign spies in their daily lives.

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