China amends law; wants telecoms to inform on secret leakers

China on Thursday amended a law on guarding state secrets that makes it mandatory on Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who discuss state secrets.

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2010, 21:02 PM IST

Beijing: China on Thursday amended a law on
guarding state secrets that makes it mandatory on Internet and
telecommunications companies to inform on customers who
discuss state secrets.

The amendments to the Law on Guarding State Secrets
was approved by the lawmakers at the end of the four-day
bimonthly session of the National People`s Congress Standing
Committee after three reviews, the first of which began last
June. The law will came into effect from October 1.
"This is to protect the country," Zhang Yong, director
of the Protection of State Secrets` policy and regulation
department, told reporters.

State secrets have a clearer definition in the amended
law. They are defined as information concerning state security
and interests and, if leaked, would damage state security and
interests in the areas of politics, economy and national
defense, among others.

Under the amended law, Internet and telecom companies
have to block the transmission of leaks of state secrets, make
a record of the activity and inform authorities, and if those
authorities request they must delete the information.

The National Administration for the Protection of
State Secrets and local bureaus above the county level are
responsible for national and local classification,
respectively, Xinhua news agency reported.
Prof Wang Xixin at Peking University Law School said
the number of state secrets will decline as fewer levels of
government departments have the power to classify information
as a state secret.

"It will also boost government transparency," he said.

Local officials often use the excuse "state secrets"
to avoid answering inquiries from the public properly.

The governments under the county level now will have
to respond to public questioning with more openness and
without the power to classify information as a state secret,
Wang said.

According to the law, there will more complicated but
standardised procedures to classify information a state secret
which will eliminate "random classification."

The amended law also grants more responsibility to
classification departments and units, which will be penalised
if they do not properly classify information.

Wang said reducing the number of state secrets will
improve state secrets protection, as "the protection work
would be difficult if there are many state secrets, and more
manpower and resources would be used."

"The more state secrets, the more `numb` the public
will be," he said, adding that revision of the law also
enhances China`s image on the international stage, as the
country should narrow the gamut of state secret as it conducts
increased international exchange.

PTI