China drafts law to "safeguard national cyberspace sovereignty"

State media in China today revealed that its parliament has published a draft law that will “safeguard national cyberspace sovereignty,” as well as “security and development.

It is widely agreed that once accepted, the new law will consolidate government control over digital data and consequently have significant consequences for international and multinational companies doing business in China, as well as Internet service providers operating within the country.

According to an article released by Reuters this morning, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China is “worried” about the development, in spite of the fact that the law has been a subject of discussion and debate for months. The main concern is, says Chamber president, Joerg Wuttke, that the language used in the draft legislation is so vague it isn’t clear how the law will be enforced.

Reuters also states that the East Asia director of Amnesty International, Nicholas Bequelin believes the law will “institutionalise censorship practices” that have never been previously formulated in an explicit manner. For instance, it will give the government legal power to instantly cut Internet access in the event of “sudden” incidents if authorities felt order needed to be maintained. This is exactly what it did for ten months after about 200 people died in Urumqi in ethic riots during 2009.

It is understood that the draft law will be far-reaching, and will not only improve privacy protection from cyber attack and hackers, but will also increase the power of the government to secure records and prevent publication and distribution of information that is seen as illegal in Chinese law. This will effectively enable the authorities to regulation information flow to the people.

The draft legislation, dated Monday 6 July, 2015, aims, amongst other things, to ensure that anyone using messaging apps via the Internet in China must use real names. It states that all network equipment must be approved according to government testing standards, and all data collected by Internet service providers within China must be stored on Chinese territory.

It also states that data stored in other countries for business purposes must be approved by the Chinese government. This will undoubtedly affect moves by Chinese e-commerce companies like Aliyun to expand their cloud services out of China.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post today, the Chinese government has identified cybersecurity as “a particularly irksome” element when it comes to certain economic partners, including the US that is opposed to many proposed rules as unfair to Silicon Valley companies.

The Chinese parliament has said government agencies will provide guidelines that will help network security, particularly for those “critical industries” like energy, finance, transport and telecoms, as well as national military and defense, and government administration. It has also announced that it will accept feedback on the draft legislation until 5 August, 2015.

Earlier this month, on 1 July, China’s parliament passed another sweeping national security law that has tightened control by government through the broad spectrum of life as it relates to culture, politics, the economy, the environment, technology, and the military

Essentially this law aims to ensure that all key information and infrastructure systems are both controllable and secure. The new draft legislation is the next step.