China has long been a country associated with an overbearing amount of control over its citizens, and its recent legislature only acts to reinforce this image. The new law – as indicated by State media – allows Chinese officials to hand out punishments and gag orders over online activity. The law is not, however, limited to cyber security, but its relatively vague wording makes it applicable to every walk of life – from finance to religion. The law gives the government the authority to take any steps necessary to protect what it perceives as China’s sovereignty.
What Does This Mean for China?
Following news this week that China is cracking down on ‘foul language’ in its media and online social networks such as Weibo, the new legislature is a clear sign that China’s government is determined to keep the same tight control on its citizens’ use of the Internet as it has on its own media outlets. The law stipulates that all network infrastructures and IT systems be made accessible so as to allow them to make them “secure and controllable.” Such a law is sure to cause controversy particularly with companies operating in China, who fear they may be forced to hand over sensitive data to the Chinese government.
What do People Think of This?
Unsurprisingly, many legal professionals are concerned at the vague wording and broad reach of such a law, citing that the legislation does not stipulate what conditions or actions receive punishment, nor what punishment will be received. In essence, this leaves the Chinese government with a blank check to punish those who they perceive to have threatened China’s national sovereignty in the online space. With no guidelines in place, it will be incredibly difficult for violators of the law to defend themselves or indeed to know that they were violating the law in the first place, making this law an effective weapon against anybody with whom the government disagrees. Government officials, on the other hand, state that the law is absolutely necessary as the rapidly expanding online space is posing threats to China’s national security. They assure the people that the laws will not impede on their legitimate rights or the country’s core interests.