(May 7, 2010) On April 29, 2010, the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress of China (NPC) adopted the revised Law on Guarding State Secrets (State Secrets Law). The new Law will take effect on October 1, 2010. Text of the amended Law [in Chinese], Central People's Government official website, Apr. 30, 2010, available at http://www.gov.cn/flfg/2010-04/30/content_1596420.htm.)
China's State Secrets Law was first adopted by the 7th NPC Standing Committee on September 5, 1988 (id.). Effective from May 1, 1989, the Law replaced the 1951 Interim Regulations on Guarding State Secrets. The 1989 Law contains 35 articles, which have been expanded to 53 articles in the recent revision. (Text of the 1989 Law, http://www.gov.cn/banshi/2005-08/21/content_25096.htm (last visited May 4, 2010).)
Here are some highlights of the amendment:
- Limits on the time period for guarding state secrets: China classifies state secrets into three categories: “top secret,” “highly secret,” and “secret.” Under the new Law, if not otherwise regulated, the limit on the length of time that the “top secret” state secrets are protected is 30 years; that for the “highly secret” state secrets is 20 years; and that for the “secret” state secrets is 10 years (art. 15). A state secret will be automatically declassified when the time period for guarding it has expired (art. 19).
- Explicit requirements for Internet operators: Detailed provisions regulating computer information systems are added into the new Law. For example, the new Law prohibits connecting any computers or storage devices dealing with secrets to the Internet or other public information networks (art. 24). Among those rules, the most discussed is the provision under article 28, which requires Internet and telecommunications operators and service providers to work with the relevant authorities on investigations, in detecting, reporting, and deleting information that discloses state secrets.
- Detailed provisions on the power of the state authorities in overseeing the violations of the state secret guarding rules: The new Law adds a whole chapter to the existing five chapters, “Chapter IV, Supervision and Management,” which details the state secret-guarding authorities' power to promulgate secret-guarding rules and national standards and to supervise and investigate misconduct relating to the guarding of state secrets (arts. 41-47).