China is poised to strengthen a law to require telecommunications and Internet companies to inform on customers who discuss state secrets, potentially forcing businesses to collaborate with the country’s vast security apparatus that stifles political dissent. The move, reported Tuesday by state media, comes as China continues tightening controls on communications services. It also follows a spat over censorship that prompted search giant Google Inc. last month to move its Chinese site to Hong Kong, which provides broader protection of civil liberties than mainland China.

China is poised to strengthen a law to require telecommunications and Internet companies to inform on customers who discuss state secrets, potentially forcing businesses to collaborate with the country’s vast security apparatus that stifles political dissent.

 

The move, reported Tuesday by state media, comes as China continues tightening controls on communications services. It also follows a spat over censorship that prompted search giant Google Inc. last month to move its Chinese site to Hong Kong, which provides broader protection of civil liberties than mainland China.

 

A draft of amendments to the Law on Guarding State Secrets submitted to China’s top legislature for review will make more explicit the requirement that telecoms operators and Internet service providers help police and state security departments in investigations about leaks of state secrets, the state-run China Daily newspaper said.

 

“Information transmissions should be immediately stopped if they are found to contain state secrets,” the official Xinhua News Agency cited the amendment as saying. Xinhua said that according to the amendment, once a state secret leak has been discovered, records should be kept and the finding reported to authorities.

 

The new draft maintains that wide scope, defining state secrets as: “information that concerns state security and interests and, if leaked, would damage state security and interests in the areas of politics, economy and national defense, among others,” Xinhua said. Reports did not say what penalties for violations would be under the amended law.

 

But its passage is unlikely to result in a significant change as communications companies are already often compelled by powerful authorities to comply with investigations. The amended law is most likely to affect people using local Internet service providers, but it is unclear if Google, which still runs some services on its China site such as Google Video, will fall under the radar. Many other overseas websites, like Facebook and Twitter, are already blocked in China. It probably also won’t interfere with companies that do not provide China-based services or store data in the country.

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