China “more willing” to enforce ambiguous counterintelligence law – World

Chinese law expert Jeremy Daum today downplayed the amendment to China’s Counter-espionage Law, instead highlighting its “vague” language and the will of the authorities, “now much stronger”, to enforce the legislation.

“The letter of the law is not that important: the authorities never failed [chinesas] legal basis for acting. The question was always one of will,” Paul Tsai, a researcher at the Center for China, from the Yale University School of Law, told the Lusa agency during a visit to Beijing.

The amendment to the Counterespionage Law, which comes into force from July 1, is raising concern among foreign academics, diplomats, consultants or journalists residing in the Asian country.

“Now there is clearly much more will to enforce the legislation and, therefore, we feel that the environment is tightening”, he noted.

Legislation will move to ban the transfer of any information related to national security and broaden the definition of spying, as Chinese President Xi Jinping stresses the need to build a “new security architecture”.

All “documents, data, material and items relating to security and national interests” will now be under the same degree of protection as state secrets, according to the amendment.

Daum highlighted the vague language: “The law is written at such an abstract level that selective application is not only possible, but necessary.”

“It’s an inherent part of its design,” he said.

In China, the “leading role” of the Communist Party (CPC), which has ruled the country since 1949, is a “cardinal principle”, with the judicial system subordinated to political power. Notions such as the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary form part of the West’s “wrong ideology”, which must be fought.

The Counterespionage Law was enacted in 2014, with an emphasis on the need to protect “state secrets”.

Jeremy Daum considered that the amendment approved in April does not aim to bring the legislation closer to the parameters of a rule of law, but rather to make it even more “imprecise and flexible”.

“An important point of the amendment is: if you share something that is not labeled a state secret, but which you should know is a state secret, you are also subject to punishment,” he explained.

The expert said that another point of concern is that, according to the amendment, it is not only considered espionage “to participate, be an agent or accept tasks, but also to align with a spy agency”.

“What does ‘align with’ mean? It’s a vague term. It’s not a cool term,” he summarized.

Last month, Chinese police entered the offices of two consulting firms, Bain & Co. and Capvision, and a due diligence firm, Mintz Group. Authorities offered no explanation, saying only that foreign companies are required to comply with the law.

Concerns have been heightened by the arrest in recent years of foreign nationals in the country on charges of spying or endangering national security.

Foreign governments have described the cases as politically motivated and accused Beijing of denying access to lawyers and holding trials behind closed doors.

Jeremy Daum fears that the legislation will “make contact between Chinese citizens and foreigners even more difficult”.

“Even if that is not the purpose: the lack of clarity attributes an air of suspicion to any contact”, he noted.

“I am happy, as a researcher, that on this visit, many of my old Chinese friends have shown great willingness to meet with me. But, I don’t know how easy it will be to make new friends”, he observed. “There is now a calculation, a cost-benefit analysis, in contact with foreigners”.

Source: Jornal de Negócios by

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