The Chinese government is set to adopt the Cybersecurity Law, a regressive measure that strengthens censorship, surveillance, and other controls over the internet, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Nov.7. China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee was expected to pass the law by the end of its Oct. 31-Nov. 7 session.
“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes,” said Sophie Richardson, HRW’s China Director. “The already heavily censored internet in China needs more freedom, not less.”
While many of these measures are not new, most were previously only informally applied or defined in lower-level regulation. Elevating these powers in the Cybersecurity Law sends a signal that the government may enforce the requirements more strictly, leaving less leeway for tech companies to avoid implementation.
The Chinese government has a long record of tightly controlling online speech through censorship, harsh punishments, and the use of restrictive technologies. But internet control has reached new heights since President Xi Jinping assumed power in March 2013.
In the past year alone, authorities have issued multiple directives to gag online speech, such as by requiring staff to monitor content round the clock, criminalizing the “spreading of rumors” about natural disasters, and issuing new rules requiring app providers to keep user logs for 60 days to reduce the spread of “illegal information.”