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Nationwide State Secrets Education Campaign Launched as New Law Goes into Effect

October 1, 2010

China’s revised Law on Guarding State Secrets (State Secrets Law) goes into effect today. Passed on April 29, 2010, the same day that a major policy report on the Internet1 was presented to the National People’s Congress, the revised State Secrets Law is a legal upgrade designed to place broader and tighter control over information flow on the Internet and any public information networks, in addition to traditional forms of communication. (See below for an English translation of the revised State Secrets Law by Human Rights in China or download a PDF of the translation in full.)

The new law also sets out expanded and specific responsibility for implementation. As set out in Article 28, the law requires Internet and other public information networking operators and service providers to: 1) cooperate with investigation and prosecution of violations; 2) maintain and disclose records and reports to security authorities; and 3) take active steps to stop transmission of information considered to be state secrets.

The new law is being introduced with the fanfare of a political movement. According to Chinese-language press reports, in the days and weeks leading up to October 1, the government launched a nationwide campaign to educate both government officials on how to implement the law and the people on how to obey it. Campaigns are taking place from Hainan and Guangdong to Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, from Gansu and Sichuan to Beijing and Tianjin, reaching government agencies at different levels, as well as schools, businesses, and troops. Activities include discussions, study classes on “how to keep secrets” (保密课) and quizzes for cadres and government officials, and “cultural” activities such as mime theater (哑剧) and art competition (书画创作比赛) for the general public.

“This nationwide education campaign on the revised State Secrets Law underscores a chilling message: think before you speak or circulate any information, including in any private communications,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC.

Notes

1. Wang Chen [王晨], “Concerning the Development and Administration of Our Country’s Internet” [关於我国互联网发展和管理], April 29, 2010, http://www.gov.cn/gzdt/2010-05/05/content_1599822.htm. For Human Rights in China’s English translation of the unredacted report, see China Rights Forum, 2010, no. 2, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/175084. ^


For unofficial translations of the revised State Secrets Law, see:

For more information on the State Secrets Law, see:

For more information on the 2010 policy report on the Internet, see:

For Chinese-language press reports on the State Secrets Law education campaign and images of the campaign, see:

Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets

(Adopted at the Third Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People's Congress on September 5, 1988, and revised at the 14th Session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress on April 29, 2010.)

***

Order of the President of People’s Republic of China

No. 28

The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets was revised and adopted at the 14th Session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress on April 29, 2010. It is hereby promulgated, and effective as of October 1, 2010.

Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China

April 29, 2010

[English translation by Human Rights in China]

Contents

Chapter One: General Provisions

Chapter Two: Scope and Classification of State Secrets

Chapter Three: System for Guarding State Secrets

Chapter Four: Supervision and Management

Chapter Five: Legal Responsibility

Chapter Six: Additional Provisions

Chapter One: General Provisions

Article 1. This law is formulated for the purpose of guarding state secrets, safeguarding state security and national interests, and ensuring the smooth progress of reform, of opening to the outside world, and of socialist construction.

Article 2. State secrets shall be matters that have a vital bearing on state security and national interests and, as specified by legal procedure, are entrusted to a limited number of people for a given period of time.

Article 3. State secrets shall be protected by law.

All state organs, armed forces, political parties, public organizations, enterprises, units, and citizens shall have the obligation to guard state secrets.

Any activities endangering the security of state secrets must be punishable by law.

Article 4. The work of guarding state secrets (hereinafter referred to as “the secret-guarding work ”) shall be carried out in line with the principles of active prevention of leaks, emphasizing priorities, and management according to the law, so that the security of state secrets is protected while the rational use of information and resources is facilitated.

Matters requiring disclosure by laws or administrative regulations shall be disclosed in accordance with the law.

Article 5. The national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding work shall be responsible for guarding state secrets throughout the country. The local departments for the administration and management of secret-guarding at or above the county level shall be responsible for guarding secrets in their own administrative areas.

Article 6. State organs and units involved with state secrets (hereinafter referred to as “organs and units”) shall manage the work of guarding secrets in their own organs and units.

The central state organs shall, within the scope of their functions and powers, manage or guide the work of guarding state secrets in their own organs and in the departments subordinate to them.

Article 7. Organs and units shall implement a system of responsibility for the work of guarding secrets, strengthen the system of management of guarding secrets, perfect measures to safeguard secrets, launch publicity and education on secret-guarding, and reinforce inspections of secret-guarding.

Article 8. The state shall reward those units or individuals that have rendered meritorious service in guarding and protecting state secrets and improving techniques and measures in this field.

Chapter Two: Scope and Classification of State Secrets

Article 9. The following matters involving state security and national interests, the disclosure of which may harm the country in  politics, the economy, defense, foreign affairs, or other such realms, shall be classified as state secrets:

  1. Secret matters concerning major policy decisions on state affairs;
  2. Secret matters in the building of national defense and in the activities of the armed forces;
  3. Secret matters in diplomatic activities and in activities related to foreign countries and those to be kept secret through commitments to foreign countries;
  4. Secret matters in national economic and social development;
  5. Secret matters concerning science and technology;
  6. Secret matters concerning activities for safeguarding state security and the investigation of criminal offenses; and
  7. Other matters that are classified as state secrets by the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding.

Secrets of political parties that correspond with the stipulations in the preceding paragraph shall be treated as state secrets.

Article 10. State secrets are classified into three categories: “top secret,” “highly secret,” and “secret.”

Secrets classified as “top secret” are the most vital state secrets, the divulgence of which will cause extremely serious harm to state security and national interests; secrets classified as “highly secret” are important state secrets, the divulgence of which will cause serious harm to state security and national interests; and secrets classified as “secret” are ordinary state secrets, the divulgence of which will cause harm to state security and national interests.

Article 11. The specific scope of state secrets and their classification levels shall be stipulated by the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding together with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Public Security, and State Security, and other relevant central organs.

The specific scope of state secrets related to military affairs, and their classification levels, shall be stipulated by the Central Military Commission.

Stipulations on the specific scope and classification levels of state secrets shall be made known within relevant quarters and promptly adjusted according to changes in circumstance.

Article 12. Individuals in charge of organs and units, and personnel appointed by them, shall be the people responsible for classifying secrets; they shall be responsible for the task of classifying, reclassifying, and declassifying state secrets in their own organs and units.

The classification, reclassification, and declassification of state secrets by organs and units shall be proposed with specific opinions by the person who handles the matter and reviewed and approved by the people responsible for classifying secrets.

Article 13. The classification of the level of state secrets shall abide by the jurisdiction for classification determination.

Central state organs, provincial organs, and organs and units authorized by them may classify state secrets as top secrets, highly secrets, and secrets; the organs of districted cities or autonomous prefectures and organs or units authorized by them may classify state secrets as highly secrets and secrets. The specific jurisdiction for classification determination and the scope of authorization shall be stipulated by the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding.

Whenever organs or units which implement state secrets items set by superior authorities need to classify those secrets, they shall determine the classification level based on the classification level of state secrets item being executed. When the subordinate organs or units believe that the classified items generated by them fall under the classification jurisdiction of their superior agencies and units, they shall first adopt measures to protect the secrets and immediately report to the superior agencies or units for determination. When there are no superior agencies or units, they shall immediately submit such items to the business administrative department with relevant jurisdiction for classification determination or to the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding for determination.

Public security organs and national security organs shall determine the classification level of state secrets within their scope of work in accordance with their prescribed jurisdiction.

Article 14. Organs and units shall, in accordance with the stipulations on the specific scope and classification levels of state secrets, determine the classification level of any state secret that arises in said organs and units, and at the same time determine the length of time that the secret should be protected and the range of those with knowledge of it.

Article 15. The length of time during which state secrets should be protected shall be limited to a period required based on the nature and characteristics of the item in accordance with the requirements of safeguarding national security and interests; when a time limit cannot be determined, the conditions for declassification shall be determined .

The length of time during which state secrets should be protected shall be, unless otherwise specified, not more than 30 years for top secrets, not more than 20 years for highly secrets, and not more than ten years for secrets. Organs and units shall determine the specific length of time during which secrets should be protected, the time of declassification, and the conditions for declassification, in accordance with work requirements.

Items which organs and units have classified as state secrets during the course of determining and handling related matters shall be declassified upon being officially published if the disclosure is deemed necessary based on work requirements.   

Article 16. The range of those with knowledge of state secrets shall be restricted to the smallest range possible as required by work.

If the range of those with knowledge of state secrets can be limited to specific people, it shall be limited to specific people; if it cannot be limited to specific people, it shall be limited to an organ or a unit, and the organ or unit shall limit it to specific people.

Personnel outside the range of those with knowledge of state secrets, whose work requires knowledge of state secrets, shall go through the approval of the people in charge of the organs or units that originally classified the secret.

Article 17. Organs and units shall mark as state secrets any item of paper, optical, or electromagnetic medium bearing state secrets (hereinafter referred to as “items bearing state secrets”), as well as equipment and products that are a part of state secrets.

Items that are not a part of state secrets shall not be marked as state secrets.

Article 18. The classification levels of state secrets, the length of time that they should be guarded, and the range of those with knowledge of them shall be altered in accordance with changing circumstances. Such alterations shall be decided on by the state organs or units that originally determined the classification level of the secrets and the time period for guarding them, or by a higher-level department.

If the classification level of a state secret, the length of time that it should be guarded, or the range of those with knowledge of it is altered, a written notification shall promptly be sent to the organs, units, or personnel within the range of those with knowledge of it.

Article 19. A state secret shall be automatically declassified when the time period for guarding it has expired.

Organs and units shall conduct periodic audits of all classified state secrets. They shall promptly declassify a secret when it, during the period of classification, is determined as no longer requiring classification due to an adjustment of the scope of items to be guarded or the classification is determined to be no longer necessary because the disclosure of the item will not harm state security and national interests; if the time period for guarding a secret needs to be extended, that time limit shall be re-determined before the original period has expired. The advance declassification or extension of classification time period shall be decided by the organ or unit that originally classified it, or by a higher-level department.

Article 20. If organs or units are unclear about or disagree with whether a certain matter is a state secret or its classification level, it shall be determined by the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding, or the department for the administration and management of secret-guarding at the level of the province, autonomous region, or directly-administered municipality.

Chapter Three: System for Guarding State Secrets

Article 21. The making, receiving, dispatch, transfer, use, duplication, storage, maintenance, and destruction of items bearing state secrets shall conform to the stipulations for state secret-guarding.

Items bearing information classified as top secret shall be stored within facilities or equipment that conform to state secret-guarding standards, and shall be managed by specifically-designated individuals; the items shall not be duplicated or excerpted without prior approval from the organ or unit that originally classified them or by a higher-level department; designated personnel shall be responsible for receiving, transferring, and carrying them outside, and necessary security measures shall be adopted.

Article 22. The manufacture, production, transportation, use, storage, maintenance, and destruction of equipment or products classified as state secrets shall conform to state secret-guarding provisions.

Article 23. Computer information systems that store and process state secrets (hereinafter referred to as “secrets information systems”) shall be protected according to classification level based on the degree of involvement with secrets.

The secrets information systems shall be outfitted with secret-guarding facilities and equipment that conform to state secret-guarding standards. The secret-guarding facilities and equipment shall be planned, built, and operated in step with the secrets information systems.

Before a secrets information system is put to use, it shall be inspected and approved in accordance with regulations.

Article 24. Organs and units shall reinforce the management of the secrets information systems; no organization or individual shall engage in the following conduct:

  1. Connect computers or storage devices dealing with secrets to the Internet or other public information networks;
  2. Exchange information between a secrets information system and the Internet or other public information networks without adopting protective measures;
  3. Use computers or storage devices that do not deal with state secrets to save or process state secrets information;
  4. Uninstall or modify security technology programs or administrative programs from a secrets information system without authorization;
  5. Give away, sell, or discard or modify to another use those decommissioned computers and storage devices that have dealt with state secrets but have not gone through security technology procedures.

Article 25. Organs and units shall reinforce the management of items bearing state secrets; no organization or individual shall engage in the following conduct:

  1. Illegally obtain or hold items bearing state secrets;
  2. Buy, sell, transfer, or destroy items bearing state secrets without authorization;
  3. Transfer items bearing state secrets through channels without secret-guarding measures, such as the ordinary postal service or express courier;
  4. Mail or consign for shipment abroad items bearing state secrets;
  5. Carry or transmit items bearing state secrets abroad without permission from the authorities in charge.

Article 26. Duplicating, recording, or storing state secrets in violation of the law is prohibited.

The transmission of state secrets through the Internet or other public information networks, or through wired or wireless communication, without first adopting secret-guarding measures is prohibited. Dealing with state secrets in private contact and correspondence is prohibited.

Article 27. The relevant secret-guarding regulations shall be complied with in editing, publishing, printing, and distributing newspapers and periodicals, books, audio- visual products, and electronic publications; in producing and broadcasting radio programs, television programs, and films; and in editing and releasing information through public information networks such as the Internet and mobile communication networks, and through other media.

Article 28. Internet and other public information network operators and service providers must cooperate with public security, state security, and procuratorate organs in investigation of cases regarding leaking of secrets; when information involving leaking of state secrets is found to have been published through the Internet and other public information networks, transmission must stop immediately, relevant records must be kept, and reports must be made to public security organs, state security organs, or the departments for the administration and management of guarding state secrets; information involving leaking of state secrets must be deleted as required by public security organs, state security organs, or the departments for the administration and management of guarding state secrets.

Article 29. State organs and units shall comply with secret-guarding regulations when they publicly release information and purchase goods, or services or [any items] for projects involving state secrets.

Article 30. When organs and units have to provide state secrets in the course of maintaining foreign relations and cooperation, or when personnel appointed or hired abroad need to have knowledge of state secrets because it is required by their job, they shall report such information to the relevant supervising department in the State Council or to the relevant supervising department in the people’s government of a province, autonomous region, or a directly-administered municipality for approval, and sign a confidentiality agreement with the concerned party.

Article 31. When holding meetings or conducting other activities that involve state secrets, the host unit shall adopt the appropriate secret-guarding measures, provide the participants with education on secret-guarding, and raise specific secret-guarding requirements.

Article 32. Organs and units shall designate as “key secret-guarding departments” the organizations that shall be involved with state secrets at the top-secret level or with relatively large amounts of highly secret or secret information; shall designate as “key secret-guarding positions” the specialized places that shall focus on the production, storage, or maintenance of items bearing state secrets; and shall outfit them in accordance with the state secret-guarding regulations and standards, and protect the facilities and equipment with the use of necessary techniques.

Article 33. Forbidden military zones and other places that involve state secrets and are not open to the public shall be protected by secret-guarding measures; no one may decide to open them to the public or enlarge the area that is open to the public without prior approval from the relevant authorities.

Article 34. Enterprises or  public institutions whose business activities involve state secrets, including those who produce, reproduce, maintain, and destroy items bearing state secrets; those which are integrated into a secrets information system; and those which scientifically research or produce military equipment, shall be subject to secret-guarding examinations. Specific measures for such examinations shall be stipulated by the State Council.

Organs and units that entrust enterprises and public institutes to engage in the operations stipulated in the above paragraph shall sign secret-guarding agreements with such enterprises and institutions; they shall make secret-guarding requirements, and security measures shall be adopted.

Article 35. Personnel working in jobs that involve secrets (hereinafter referred to as “personnel involved with secrets”) shall be classified according to the degree of involvement with secrets into “core personnel involved with secrets,” “important personnel involved with secrets,” and “general personnel involved with secrets,” and shall be managed by classification.

The employment or appointment of personnel involved with secrets shall be subject to examination in accordance with relevant regulations.

Personnel involved with secrets shall have good political awareness and characters and shall possess working ability qualified for positions involving secrets.

The lawful rights and interests of personnel involved with secrets shall be protected by law.

Article 36. When assuming a post, personnel involved with secrets shall receive education and training in secret-guarding, master the knowledge and skills of secret-guarding, sign a confidentiality agreement, strictly observe the rules and regulations for secret-guarding, and shall not divulge state secrets in any manner.

Article 37. If leaving the country, personnel involved with secrets shall receive approval from relevant departments; if the relevant department decides that the departure from the country by the personnel involved with secrets might endanger state security or cause serious damage to national interests, the exit approval shall not be granted.

Article 38. When leaving a post or resigning, personnel involved with state secrets shall undergo a period of release from secrets-management. During that period of release, personnel shall perform secret-guarding obligations in accordance with regulations and shall not obtain employment in violation of the regulations, nor shall they divulge state secrets in any manner.

Article 39. Organs and units shall establish a robust management system for personnel involved with secrets, specifying their rights and the responsibilities and requirements of their position, and shall regularly supervise and inspect the performance of their duties.

Article 40. If state employees and other citizens should find that state secrets have been divulged or are in danger of being divulged, they should immediately take measures to remedy the situation and promptly report the matter to the state organs and units concerned, which shall, upon receiving such reports, deal with the matter without delay and promptly report it to the department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding.

Chapter Four: Supervision and Management

Article 41. The national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall, pursuant to the provisions of laws and administrative statutes, stipulate secret-guarding rules and regulations and set standards for state secret-guarding techniques.

Article 42. The department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall, in accordance with the law, undertake the task of secret-guarding publicity and education, secret-guarding inspection, defense of secret-guarding techniques, and investigation of secrecy leaks cases, and shall provide guidance and supervision of the secret-guarding work of organs and units.

Article 43. The department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall promptly notify relevant state organs and units of its discovery of improper classification, re-classification, or declassification of state secrets and shall correct it.

Article 44. The department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall conduct examinations into whether organs and units are complying with the secret-guarding system; the organs and units concerned shall cooperate with such examinations.  The department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding, if it finds that there is a danger of secrecy leaks within an organ or unit, shall request that that organ or unit adopt measures and rectify the situation within a specified time; it shall order that the use of facilities, equipment, and locations where the danger of secrecy leaks exists be suspended; it shall suggest that the organ or unit in charge penalize personnel involved with secrets who gravely violate the secret-guarding regulations and remove them from positions that involve state secrets. If it discovers a suspected divulgence of state secrets, it shall urge and guide the organs or units concerned to investigate and handle the divulgence.  If a crime is suspected, the case shall be transferred to the judicial organ for handling.

Article 45. The department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall seize any illegally obtained or held items bearing state secrets that it discovers in the course of a secret-guarding inspection.

Article 46. The organ that handles a case of a suspected leak of state secrets must carry out an appraisal of whether or not relevant matters are classified as state secrets and to which level of secret classification they belong; the national department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding or a department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding at the level of the province, autonomous region, or a directly-administered municipality shall [validate] the appraisal.

Article 47. If an organ or unit does not penalize personnel for violations of secret-guarding regulations in accordance with the law, the department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding shall recommend a correction; if the organ or unit refuses to make corrections, the department shall request that the organ at the next higher level or its supervisory organ penalize the responsible leaders and  the personnel directly responsible in the organs or units in accordance with the law.

Chapter Five: Legal Responsibility

Article 48. Anyone who violates the provisions of this Law with any [form of] the conduct listed below shall be punished in accordance with the law; if the violation constitutes a crime, the individual shall be prosecuted and held criminally responsible in accordance with the law.

  1. Illegally obtaining or possessing any items bearing state secrets;
  2. Buying, selling, transferring, or destroying without authorization items bearing state secrets;
  3. Transferring items bearing state secrets through channels without secret-guarding measures, such as the ordinary postal service and express delivery;
  4. Mailing or consigning for shipment abroad items bearing state secrets, or carrying or transferring items bearing state secrets abroad without permission from the relevant departments;
  5. Copying, recording, or storing state secrets illegally;
  6. Touching on state secrets in private contact or correspondence;
  7. Transmitting state secrets through the internet or other public information networks or in wired or wireless communications without having first adopted secret-guarding measures; 
  8. Connecting computers or other storage devices dealing with state secrets to the Internet or other public information networks;
  9. Exchanging information between a secrets information system and the Internet or other public information network without having first adopted protective measures;
  10. Using a computer or other storage device that do not deal with state secrets to store or process state secret information;
  11. Uninstalling or modifying the security technology programs or administrative programs of a secrets information system without authorization;
  12. Giving away, selling, discarding, or converting to other uses decommissioned computers and storage devices that have dealt with state secrets but not gone through security technology procedures.

Personnel who commit conduct in the above categories that does not constitute a crime and for whom disciplinary measures are not applicable shall be penalized by the organ or unit to which such personnel belong under the supervision of the department for the administration and management of state secret-guarding.

Article 49. If any organ or unit violates the provisions of this Law and  causes a major divulgence of state secrets, the organ or unit  shall penalize the person in charge who is directly responsible and other directly responsible personnel in accordance with the law; the personnel for whom disciplinary measures are not applicable shall be handled by the competent departments under the supervision of the administration and management of state secret-guarding.

If any organ or unit violates the provisions of this Law, either by not classifying items which should be classified as state secrets or by classifying items which should not be classified, and such violation leads to serious consequences, the organ or unit shall penalize the chief person in charge who is directly responsible and other directly responsible persons.

Article 50. Internet and other public information network operators and service providers in violation of Article 28 of this Law shall be penalized in accordance with the law by the public security organ, the state security organ, or the relevant information industry department according to their respective authority conferred.

Article 51. Any personnel involved in the administrative management of state secrets who, in the course of performing their duty of managing state secrets abuse their authority, neglect their duty, or engage in bribery or fraud, shall be penalized in accordance with the law; those whose conduct constitutes a crime shall be legally prosecuted and held criminally responsible.

Chapter Six: Additional Provisions

Article 52. The Central Military Commission shall, in accordance with this Law, formulate the regulations of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on the protection of state secrets.

Article 53. This law shall take effect as of October 1, 2010.

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