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New law outlines how to catch a spy

An Baijie
Updated: Oct 28,2014 9:47 AM     China Daily

The power of authorities conducting counterespionage activities that involve overseas individuals or organizations should be exercised within the confines of law to protect human rights and legal interests, according to a draft being reviewed by the top legislature.

The draft of the Counterespionage Law is scheduled to be discussed from Oct 27 to Nov 1 during the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

According to the new draft, national security authorities could seize suspected devices, but the seized material should be returned to its owners if they are found to be innocent. If the seized properties are destroyed, the security authorities should pay compensation.

Any information and documents collected could only be used for counterespionage purposes, and should not be leaked if they are related to State secrets, business secrets and privacy, according to the draft.

To be considered espionage under the draft definition, an overseas individual, organization or institution must be involved.

Sun Baoshu, vice-chairman of the Law Committee of the NPC, told lawmakers on Oct 27 that the new draft has attached greater importance to the public’s interests to ensure that the power of counterespionage authorities will be exercised under regulations.

The draft is made on the basis of the current National Security Law, which has not been revised since it took effect in 1993. The National Security Law mainly regulates the work of the country’s national security agencies, whose major duty is counterespionage.

If the draft is approved by the NPC Standing Committee on Saturday, the current National Security Law will be abolished, Sun said.

An official from the Ministry of State Security, who declined to be named, said China’s counterespionage agencies face new circumstances, and as a result a new law with detailed rules should be passed as soon as possible.

President Xi Jinping has emphasized the importance of national security since he was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012.

In April, Xi put forward an “overall national security outlook” at the first meeting of the Central National Security Commission, which is led by Xi.

The challenges China faces in maintaining national security today are more diverse than in the past, as it has seen complicated internal and external situations, Xi said at the meeting.

A Canadian couple have been detained by the State security agency since Aug 4 in Dandong, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, on suspicion of using their cafe in the city to collect intelligence.

On Aug 5, an aviation student at a university in Heilongjiang province was arrested on suspicion of selling more than 50 batches of confidential information to overseas spy agencies for more than 200,000 yuan, Xinhua News Agency reported.