China revises Counter-Espionage Law, defining cyber-attacks against state organs as spy activities
Published: Apr 26, 2023 09:31 PM Updated: Apr 26, 2023 10:10 PM
Two Sessions Photo:Xinhua

Two Sessions Photo:Xinhua

The 14th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee passed an amendment to the Counter-Espionage Law on Wednesday. The revised law refines the definition of espionage activities, explicitly categorizing "collaborating with spy organizations and their agents" and "conducting cyber-attacks against state organs, confidential-related units, or critical information infrastructure and etc." as espionage activities.

The revised law will come into effect on July 1. 

Regarding the latest revision, Wang Aili, head of the criminal law division with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, explained that the new law adheres to a problem-oriented approach, focusing on key issues in the implementation of the current Counter-Espionage Law, such as a narrow scope of espionage activities, inadequate security precaution systems and insufficient administrative law enforcement authority. 

Specifically, this revision refines the definition of espionage activities. "Collaborating with spy organizations and their agents" and "conducting cyber-attacks against state organs, confidential-related units, or critical information infrastructure, etc." are explicitly categorized as espionage activities. In accordance with practical situations, the scope of objects subject to theft of secrets is moderately expanded, and "documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests" are also included for protection. 

Meanwhile, the new law refines security precaution provisions. The revised law clarifies the main responsibilities of state organs and social organizations in counter-espionage security precautions, actively carrying out counter-espionage education, and effectively raising public awareness and national security literacy for counter-espionage precautions. It also clarifies the security precaution responsibilities of key units and the system to grant permissions for construction projects involving national security matters.

Furthermore, the new law improves counter-espionage investigation and handling measures and increases administrative law enforcement powers. Administrative law enforcement powers such as examining and collecting data, summoning, inquiring about property information, and prohibiting entry or exit are added to the new law. Besides, requirements for standardized law enforcement by state security organs are also clarified, with strict approval procedures ensuring standardized law enforcement. 

It also adds the notification and handling measures for discovered cybersecurity risks and mechanisms for the identification and evaluation of state secrets and intelligence.

In one case in 2022, the email system of a university in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province - well-known for its aviation, aerospace and navigation studies - was found to have been attacked by the US' National Security Agency (NSA).

Ahead of April 15, 2023, the 8th National Security Education Day, a series of typical cases were revealed. A civil servant in the Xinjiang region met a netizen through a mobile dating app and became a tool for an overseas spy agency to collect sensitive local information.

In terms of strengthening the support and supervision of counter-espionage work, the new law adds provisions for protection, rescue, compensation, resettlement, preferential treatment, and training for relevant personnel and encourages technological innovation in the field of counter-espionage, highlighting the role of technology in counter-espionage efforts. 

Global Times