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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times China’s anti-spy law a threat to world

China’s anti-spy law a threat to world

Recent amendments expanding the scope of Beijing’s counterespionage law have raised concerns about the possible dangers of living and conducting business in China. The changes extend the reach of the law, which has long been used to suppress internal dissent, to foreign citizens and companies, with an eye on Taiwan in particular.

The amendments, which are to take effect on July 1, involve 71 articles defining the targets of espionage, from state secrets and intelligence to any “documents, data, materials, and articles related to national security and interests.” Any “network attacks, intrusions, obstructions, control, or disruptions targeting state organs, units involved with secrets, or critical information infrastructure” would also be considered spying.

However, the law does not define the meaning of “national security and interests.” As long as a person is deemed a potential national security risk, the law would allow the authorities to investigate, question, detain and impose exit bans on them, including foreigners, regardless of whether the suspected activities took place outside of China’s borders.

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has overseen the implementation of a slew of laws and regulations to enforce the “securitization of everything.” For instance, Beijing in 2015 imposed the sweeping National Security Law to tighten Xi’s and the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on society.

The latest changes to the anti-espionage law clearly aim to extend that grip to foreign individuals and organizations. Human rights advocates and journalists in China have long been hounded by the anti-spy law; the amendments would add researchers and businesspeople to their ranks. A company could be accused of contravening the law just for conducting due diligence before investing in China.

The Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said that the law’s expansion coincides with an increasing number of foreigners detained in or banned from leaving China. Many of the cases lack a legal basis and violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the group said.

It said that China has over the past five years amended or enacted 15 pieces of legislation to enforce exit bans and estimated that tens of thousands of people in China could be facing exit bans at any given time.

Chinese authorities in March detained a Japanese executive of Astellas Pharma on suspicion of espionage. The same month, they raided the Beijing office of US due-diligence firm Mintz Group and detained five local staff, before closing the company’s local operations. Most recently, China branches of two international consulting firms , Bain & Company and Capvision Partner, were raided by police. China has also tightened its control on financial data flowing out of the country, leaving in the dark foreign entities that want to invest in the country.

The Mainland Affairs Council has said the expanded anti-espionage law would pose greater risks to Taiwanese visiting or transiting through China.

Taiwanese need to see through China’s hypocrisy, wherein it on the one hand pursues “unification” with calls of peaceful communications with like-minded Taiwanese, while on the other enforcing the anti-spy law to suppress any opposition to unification.

On April 26, when the amendments were passed, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office revealed that Shanghai security officials had detained Li Yanhe (李延賀), a Taiwan-based publisher of books critical of Beijing, on suspicion of “endangering national security.” The day before that, the Chinese Supreme People’s Procuratorate granted a request to detain Taiwanese democracy advocate Yang Chih-yuan (楊智淵). The detentions are examples of Beijing’s belligerence and assault on the freedom of expression, under the pretext of security. They should serve as a wake-up call to those who still believe in China’s “unification” charade.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/10

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