Numerous espionage activities thwarted since Counter-Espionage Law revision
National sovereignty, security and interests 'effectively upheld'
Published: Jul 01, 2024 09:43 PM
Chinese Ministry of State Security

Chinese Ministry of State Security

One year after China implemented its revised Counter-Espionage Law, the country's national security agencies have successfully thwarted a number of espionage activities carried out by foreign entities, such as the notable British MI6 spy case, effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.

This demonstrates that the revision of the law is an urgent necessity in the face of new challenges, providing a strong legal weapon for preventing and combating espionage activities in the new situation, observers noted.

The Counter-Espionage Law was passed at the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in April 2023 and officially came into effect on July 1, 2023. 

The revised Counter-Espionage Law is a reflection of China's attitude toward national security. It clarified what activities are lawful and what are unlawful based on dynamic changing espionage activities conducted by foreign forces, and it also advocated the joint participation of the society to combat against espionage work. 

The law explicitly categorized "collaborating with spy organizations and their agents" and "conducting cyberattacks against state organs, confidential-related units, or critical information infrastructure" as espionage activities. 

The scope of objects subject to theft of secrets has also been moderately expanded, and "documents, data, materials and items related to national security and interests" are also included for protection.

After a year since it was implemented, the revised law has significantly contributed to maintaining national security, which can be seen from cases involving both domestic and foreign individuals colluding in espionage activities being exposed through reports on the official WeChat accounts of the Ministry of State Security (MSS), Li Wei, an expert on national security at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Since the MSS debuted on WeChat, one of the most popular social media platforms, in August 2023, it has posted 281 articles relating to national security as of press time. 

The MSS released a dozen series covering aspects such as legal interpretations, case analyses, risk alerts, and more, providing the public with explanations of national security through multiple forms, interactive Q&A sessions, bilingual texts, videos and animations. 

Li said that the information spread by the MSS has a deterrent effect on individuals who could potentially be recruited by foreign spy agencies or those who are attempting to engage in espionage activities, which helps to raise anti-espionage awareness throughout society.

Among a series of major espionage cases, there is a British MI6 spy case, in which the MI6 used foreign personnel from "a third country" to engage in espionage activities against China.

"It is imperative for us to remain vigilant, as foreign intelligence agencies are likely to adapt by strengthening their tactics through both traditional and non-traditional methods in response to China's changing strategy," the expert noted.  

Li Baiyang, an associate professor of intelligence studies with Nanjing University, told the Global Times on Monday that there is trend that the operations of foreign intelligence agencies have evolved beyond mere data theft, extending into the realm of influencing public opinion by inciting defection key figures in vital sectors such as biosecurity, cyberspace and mineral resources.

The revised law stipulates that the individual who voluntarily surrenders may be given a lighter or mitigated punishment, Li Baiyang noted, calling for continuing strengthening public awareness of national security. 

Since the implementation of the law, some external forces have been meddling and distorting China's anti-spy legislation and enforcement work, unnerving foreign businesses and investors.

It is the consensus of all countries to attach importance to counter-espionage work. The China's Counter-Espionage Law targets illegal and criminal acts and does not apply to lawful data activities of foreign enterprises and individuals. The allegation can be seen as a rhetoric to cater to US strategy of containing China, Li Baiyang noted.

He added that throughout the year, it has become evident that the law effectively manages the balance between empowerment and limitation of power, as well as the oversight and control of the exercise of public power by national security agencies. 

Starting on Monday, two departmental regulations, namely the "administrative enforcement procedures of the national security agency" and the "criminal case handling procedures of the national security agency" will be officially implemented. 

The two departmental regulations, together with the revised Counter-Espionage Law, have laid a solid legal foundation for expediting the establishment of a new legal operational framework for national security agencies, experts said.