China adopted a controversial cybersecurity law on Monday to counter what Beijing says are growing threats such as hacking and terrorism.
However, overseas critics of the law argue it threatens to shut foreign technology companies out of various sectors deemed “critical”, and includes contentious requirements for security reviews and for data to be stored on servers located in China, Reuters reports.
The legislation, passed by the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, is set to come into effect in June 2017.
Rights advocates say the law will enhance restrictions on China’s internet, already subject to the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanism, known outside the country as the Great Firewall.
Yang Heqing, an official on the NPC Standing Committee, said the internet is already deeply linked to the country’s national security and development.
“China is an internet power, and as one of the countries that faces the greatest internet security risks, urgently needs to establish and perfect network security legal systems,” Yang told reporters at the close of a bimonthly legislative meeting.
More than 40 global business groups petitioned Premier Li Keqiang in August, urging Beijing to amend controversial sections of the law.
Chinese officials have said it would not interfere with foreign business interests.
Contentious provisions remained in the final draft of the law issued by the parliament, including requirements for “critical information infrastructure operators” to store personal information and important business data in China, provide unspecified “technical support” to security agencies, and pass national security reviews.
Those demands have raised concern within companies that fear they would have to hand over intellectual property or open back doors within products in order to operate in China’s market.
James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, called the provisions “vague, ambiguous, and subject to broad interpretation by regulatory authorities”.
Human Rights Watch said elements of the law, such as criminalizing the use of the internet to “damage national unity”, would further restrict online freedom.
“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement.
Zhao Zeliang, director of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s cybersecurity coordination bureau, told reporters that every article in the law was in accord with rules of international trade and that China would not close the door on foreign companies.
“They believe that [phrases such as] secure and independent control, secure and reliable, that these are signs of trade protectionism. That they are synonymous. This is a kind of misunderstanding, a kind of prejudice,” Zhao said.
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First posted: 10:26 a.m.