Draft law will allow Chinese govt to cut Web access in emergencies

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-9 0:58:03

The Chinese legislature has released a draft law on cyber security that will enable national and local governments to cut Internet access in cases of major public security incidents, a move observers see as countering terrorist threats or attempts to overthrow State power.

The State Council or local governments, with the approval of the national government, are entitled to temporarily "restrict" network communications in some regions when dealing with major public security emergencies, according to the draft law published on the website of the National People's Congress (NPC) Monday.

If illegal online information is spotted, the authorities are entitled to ask Internet providers to keep a record and take measures to remove the information. If the illegal information originated abroad, then relevant departments will be notified to cut off the dissemination of such information, the draft says.

The NPC said the law is urgently needed to deal with the increasingly worrying threats to Chinese cyber security, which includes cyber intrusion and attacks, illegally obtaining and selling personal information and illegal information promoting terrorism, extremism and inciting to subvert State power, read a statement following the full text of the draft law on its website.

"The [cyber security] clause is necessary to cut the spread of dangerous information as soon as possible, such as information involving terrorism," Zhao Zhanling, a legal counsel with the Internet Society of China, told the Global Times.

Qin An, a cyber security expert at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, added that it also legalizes government measures when dealing with extreme situations.

Authorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region temporarily cut Internet and cellphone access in parts of the region after the July 5 riots in 2009 that left some 190 people dead.

Experts said they believe cutting Internet access would only happen rarely, and as a last resort, as it will also affect public interests.

However, the current cyber security clause does not define what "major social security emergencies," are, and also has no detailed regulations on the period and geographical range of the Internet restrictions, Zhao said.

The draft law, aimed at safeguarding cyberspace sovereignty and national security, suggests mechanisms to guarantee the safety of Internet products, services, operations, network data and information.

The draft fills in the long-existing legislative void in dealing with China's cyber security, observers said.

"The draft provides a legal basis for the country to manage cyberspace and safeguard cyberspace sovereignty, as was stressed in the new national security law that came into force on July 1," Qin said.

The national security law touches on a broad range of subjects from the military to the economy, cyber security and space exploration, and the new cyber security draft law expands on these provisions.

The draft law protects key information-related infrastructure, which is expected to affect foreign companies in China.

Internet products and services purchased by operators of such infrastructure will have to undergo national security check by the cyber security authority, according to the draft.

This may affect Chinese banks who want to buy servers from overseas companies, for example.

Internet service providers should store collected data, including citizens' personal information, on Chinese territory, and data that is stored overseas must undergo government security assessment.

Operators of key information infrastructure have to delegate professional institutions to conduct security assessments at least once a year.

Such clauses are in line with the new national security law which vows to make Internet and information technology, infrastructure, information systems and data in key sectors "secure and controllable," Qin said, adding those regulations are concrete reflections of the national security law.

"Under the draft, foreign companies, such as Apple and Microsoft, will face stricter supervision in China," Zhao told the Global Times.

The purpose of the supervision is to detect possible loopholes that could result in major information leaks from China's key industries, he said.

The draft will bring potentially significant consequences for Internet service providers and multinational firms doing business in China, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The draft said the Internet security department will cooperate with other departments, such as police and information technology, to conduct the supervision and assessment, and it should detail the powers of these departments to prevent them from passing the buck to each other in practice, Zhao said.

The NPC said the draft is open to public feedback on the draft until August 5.

Posted in: Politics, Law

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