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China’s new cyber security laws face harsh criticism

China adopts a controversial cyber security law to exert tighter control over the internet, triggering concerns from foreign businesses and rights organizations.

Chinese media report the Chinese government today (Monday, November 7th) approved a broad range of new cyber security laws it said would tackle growing threats such as hacking and terrorism. The proposed Cybersecurity Law set to go into effect in June 2017 comes with data localization, surveillance, and real-name requirements.

“China is an internet power and as one of the countries that faces the greatest internet security risks, it urgently needs to establish and perfect network security legal systems,” Yang Heqing, an official on the committee, told reporters.

What it means
The new regulations, approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, has been positioned by the Chinese government as a means of protecting the country's networks and private user information.

It obliges e-commerce retailers and other internet companies to require users register with their real names and personal information, and to censor content that is “prohibited.” Companies will also be required to provide technical support and assistance to police and national security agencies “safeguarding national security and investigating crimes”.

The demands have raised concern within foreign 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.

Barriers to trade
As early as August this year, foreign businesses and rights groups voiced concern that the regulations would restrict freedom of speech and throw up barriers to global companies hoping to serve China's enormous market of more than 710 million Internet users.

"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.

James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said the law risks China "becoming isolated technologically from the rest of the world".

"Requirements for national security reviews and data sharing will unnecessarily weaken security and potentially expose personal information," he wrote in a statement, adding that overall the new law "creates barriers to trade and innovation".

Tags: china, Regulatory environment

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