A revised law dramatically expanding China’s definition of espionage came into force on Saturday, giving Beijing more power than ever to punish what it deems threats to national security.
The United States government, analysts, and lawyers say that the revisions to Beijing’s anti-espionage law are vague and will give authorities more leeway in implementing already opaque national security legislation.
Originally released for public comment in December 2022, the revisions were formally approved by China’s top legislative body in April.
Chinese law already meted out harsh punishment for those involved in alleged espionage, from life in prison to execution in extreme cases.
Under the revised law, “relying on espionage organisations and their agents” as well as the unauthorised obtaining of “documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests” can constitute a spying offence.
Beijing insists it has the right to “safeguard its national security through legislation” and says it will “uphold the rule of law”. The new law embodies a “whole-of-society approach to dealing with anything that is a risk to this broad definition of national security.”
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