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China passes new security law extending internet controls

China has adopted a new national security law that aims to make internet, IT infrastructure and systems, and data in certain sectors "secure and controllable", state-owned news agency Xinhua said in a notice on the National People's Congress (NPC) website.03 Jul 2015

Zheng Shuna of the NPC's Legislative Affairs Commission told reporters that cyberspace sovereignty is "the embodiment and extension of national sovereignty" and an important part of national infrastructure, Xinhua said in a separate report.

"We are under dual pressures," Zheng said. "Externally speaking, the country must defend its sovereignty, security and development interests, and internally speaking, it must also maintain political security and social stability," Xhinhua reported.

China is willing to cooperate with other countries in safeguarding cyber security, "building a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace, and establishing a multilateral, democratic and transparent international Internet management system", Zheng said, according to the report.

The text of the law has not yet been publicly published. However, Xinhua said it states that an "internet and information security system" will be set up to "ensure cyberspace security, enhance innovation, speed up development of 'strategic' technology and beef up intellectual property protection and application".

The law defines national security as a "condition in which a country's government, sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, well-being of its people, sustainable development of its economy and society, and other major interests are relatively safe and not subject to internal and external threats", plus the capacity to sustain such a secure condition, Xinhua said

As well as cyber security, the law covers defence, finance, science and technology, culture, religion, space, ocean depths and polar regions. Zheng rejected suggestions that the definition was "too broad", Xinhua said.

"Any government will stand firm and not leave any room for disputes, compromises and interferences when it comes to protecting its core interests. China is no exception," she said, according to Xinhua.

Hong-Kong based Jolene Reimerson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "It is not yet clear how China intends to 'ensure cyberspace security' or to make the internet and data 'secure and controllable' under the new national security law. Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore and, of course, member states of the EU, China does not have a comprehensive national data protection regime in place."

"Businesses operating in China may be concerned that the new law will pave the way for giving the Chinese authorities easy access to company IT systems and confidential data," Reimerson  said.

"This follows separate proposals from the Chinese government earlier this year that IT providers should build backdoors into their systems to enable government access and surveillance.  However, the new national security law does not appear to set out any specific obligations on companies or individuals, and we expect to see further regulations or guidance from the government as to how the new law will be put into practice," she said.

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said that a lot of research and verification had gone in to developing the law and that opinions from the public were heard before the law was adopted, Xinhua said.

China recently announced plans to open up e-commerce to foreign companies and to promote cross border e-commerce.