Beijing: China on Saturday adopted a new counterespionage law to beef up its national security by granting sweeping powers to security agencies in the backdrop of revelations of cyber-snooping by US NSA Contractor Edward Snowden.
China's legislature, National People's Congress (NPC) today passed the new legislation revising its previous National Security Law, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The law seeks to punish foreign organisations and individuals who conduct espionage activities, or who instigate and sponsor others to do it.
It also levies stiff punishments for domestic organisations and individuals who spy on the country for foreign organisations and individuals, the bill proposes.
It grants national security agencies the authority to ask an organisation or individual to stop or change activities considered harmful to national security.
If they refuse or fail to do so, the agencies will be entitled to seal or seize related properties.
The agencies are also entitled to seal and seize any device, money, venue, supplies and other properties that are related to espionage activities, according to the bill.
They will be either confiscated by national security agencies or handed over to judicial departments.
The illegal income and properties gained through knowingly hiding and fencing properties related to espionage will be confiscated, the bill says.
It stipulates that "counterespionage work should proceed according to law, respect and ensure human rights, and guarantee the legal interests of citizens and organisations." ?The new law says information and material obtained for counterespionage work should only be limited in the field, and confidentiality should be ensured regarding state and commercial secrets and personal privacy.
While discussing the law's draft version, lawmaker Fu Ying, a former vice foreign minister, proposed reduction of the scope of state secrets.
Leaking confidential documents is one of the common law violations committed by government workers driven by profits, said the former diplomat who now chairs the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee.
Fu pointed out that standards for classified documents in China are "relatively low," and that some documents are classified as state secrets due to the nature of the department handling them, not because the content falls into the category of state secrets.