The National People’s Congress of China is expected to amend legislation on espionage today. Most notably, the proposed changes will
The National People’s Congress of China is expected to amend legislation on espionage today.
Most notably, the proposed changes will expand the definition of espionage and the scope of the law. While previously only covering state secrets, the expanded anti-espionage law now includes all data and materials related for national security and national interests. However, the law does not specify what constitutes this wide-ranging category.
An additional focus is placed on cyber security, in particular cyberattacks and espionage by foreign spies or “surrogates”, which could include Chinese citizens who share documents with foreign organizations. China has previously used existing anti-espionage laws to punish Chinese nationals for sharing documents on Xinjiang’s detention camps with NGOs. Beijing also used allegations of espionage on foreign citizens to conduct hostage diplomacy in the past, including two Canadian nationals who were arrested within days of Canada’s detention of a prominent Huawei executive in 2018.
The expanded counterespionage law could become a powerful tool for Beijing to control foreign influence and potentially even force technology transfer. Authorities will have increased power to monitor, search and prosecute foreign individuals and companies working in key sectors for national security, including in the semiconductor and artificial intelligence industries, which are currently restricted under US sanctions. The US memory chipmaker Micron has only recently been placed under investigation by Chinese authorities for unspecified grounds of national security and may further be effected by the new laws.