Internet providers and telecoms operators are now required by law to assist authorities in investigating and preventing potential terror attacks in China.
The nation’s first anti-terrorism law, which was approved on Dec 27 and will be effective from Jan 1, 2016, is aimed at beefing up national security.
In particular, it highlights the responsibilities of enterprises in the communications sector and states that they must provide technical support or other assistance to police and public security departments investigating potential threats.
The law was approved after a weeklong review by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the state legislature.
“More and more terrorists take advantage of the Internet to organize terror attacks and spread religious extremism. In the law, we have made clear what Internet-related organs should do,” Li Shouwei, deputy director of criminal law for the Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission, said on Dec 27.
“We researched lots of material about how to fight terrorism by rule of law from foreign countries and institutes, including the United States and Europe. We found their laws had clear social responsibilities and duties for telecoms enterprises.”
For example, he said, the US has a law that requires telecoms companies to provide technical support to judicial authorities and law enforcement officers involved with combating terrorism.
“Taking into consideration the urgency in China for counterterrorism measures, and looking at foreign practices and receiving many opinions from Chinese telecoms and Internet enterprises, we have made such a provision,” Li said, adding that the new rules meet national needs and follow international convention.
Under the new law, telecoms operators and Internet service providers are also required to use their technical skills to decipher encrypted documents and other materials shared online by suspected terrorists when instructed by public security authorities.
“Our intention is not to interfere with telecoms companies or online service providers, online opinion or people’s religious freedom. The legal article will not affect the work of these enterprises,” Li added.
An Weixing, head of the Ministry of Public Security’s counterterrorism unit, said the law is in response to social concerns.
The law strengthens the legal support for the nation’s fight against terrorism and provides a clear mechanism for security authorities, he said, vowing: “We’ll fight on to ensure national security and social stability.”
Last week, Liu Yuejin, an assistant minister of public security, was named as China’s first counterterrorism commissioner.