Chinese intelligence agencies are to have stronger powers to monitor and investigate foreigners in the country and Chinese everywhere under a newly proposed law codifying the work of Beijing’s vast security apparatus.
The government under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) over the past several years has sought to expand and provide legal foundations for intelligence agency powers in the name of national security and combating terrorism.
The moves have sparked concern from the US government and human rights groups that say the new powers could be used to suppress political dissent, silence foreign organizations working in China and force technology companies to give the Chinese Communist Party access to sensitive information.
A coalition of business groups from Japan, Britain, the US and other countries this week appealed to China to postpone a newly adopted cybersecurity law.
They said it could violate China’s free-trade commitments.
Chinese officials say that tighter data controls are needed to prevent terrorism and anti-government activity.
The latest proposal would allow authorities to use electronic surveillance techniques and seize vehicles and real estate.
It calls for collaboration on intelligence operations at all levels of society, including the military, public institutions and people.
“Foreign bodies, organizations or individuals engaging in acts harming the national security and interests of the People’s Republic of China within Chinese borders must be punished by law,” it says.
It also says that intelligence operatives who abuse their powers will be subject to prosecution.
Last month, authorities in Beijing began offering cash rewards of up to 500,000 yuan (US$72,500) for people who turn in foreign spies.
The proposal allows for rewards for “major contributions” to intelligence activities.
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