March 8, 2017 / 7:50 AM / 6 months ago

China to formulate national intelligence law this year

A Chinese national flag flutters at the headquarters of a commercial bank on a financial street near the headquarters of the People's Bank of China, China's central bank, in central Beijing November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will formulate a national intelligence law this year, the head of its largely rubber-stamp parliament said on Wednesday, its latest piece of legislation aimed at safeguarding security.

Zhang Dejiang, who is also the third-ranked leader of the ruling Communist Party, gave no details about the proposed law in his address to parliament’s annual meeting, and it is not clear when it may be passed.

The government said in December it would propose such a law to “increase and guarantee national intelligence and protect national security and interests”, but also gave no details.

China already has broad laws governing state secrets and security.

Last year, it adopted a controversial cyber security law to counter what the government says are growing threats such as hacking and terrorism.

Overseas critics of the law say 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 in China.

In 2015, Beijing adopted a sweeping national security law that aimed to make all key network infrastructure and information systems “secure and controllable”.

China also passed a counter-espionage law in 2014 aimed at tightening state security and helping build a “comprehensive” national security system.

The new laws come amid a broad crackdown by President Xi Jinping on civil society, including rights lawyers and the media, which critics say is meant to quash dissent.

Xi is also head of a national security commission created three years ago meant to increase coordination among the various wings of China’s security bureaucracy, split now among the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

Possible international flashpoints for China include Japan, North Korea and the South China Sea.

China says it also faces considerable threats at home, pointing to unrest in two regions heavily populated by ethnic minorities which chafe at Chinese rule - Tibet and Xinjiang.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard

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