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Snowden Affair Prompts Lawyer to Request Disclosure of Surveillance Information

June 25, 2013

Today, Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), a Beijing-based rights defense lawyer, made public an application he submitted to the Ministry of Public Security requesting disclosure of information on methods used by Chinese authorities to conduct surveillance on Chinese citizens. The application was first posted on, an overseas Chinese-language website.

Below is Human Rights in China’s English translation of the application, and an explanatory note that precedes the application as it appears on

Yanyi Xie: Application Letter to Ministry of Public Security for Open Information Prompted by Edward Snowden Case

Source:, Author: Xie Yanyi

June 25, 2013

Recently, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee Edward J. Snowden, leaked to the press details of the top-secret mass surveillance program, PRISM, operated by the U.S. government. The exposure of the U.S. government’s infringement on individual privacy in its unrestrained surveillance of private information, such as citizen’s email correspondence and internet communications, has triggered public uproar in the United States and the world. In response, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that all surveillance activities must be approved by Congress. Nonetheless, the Edward Snowden case has greatly damaged the national image of the U.S. and at the same time raised widespread public concern over civil rights and individual privacy. In order to defend Chinese citizens’ right to information, protect the national interest of China, and the image of the government, as well as to advance the rule of law, Beijing lawyer Xie Yanyi recently submitted an application to the relevant authorities requesting disclosure of information on policy on Internet and mobile phone security.


Application Letter for Open Information on Internet Security Policy

Applicant Name: Yanyi Xie

Contact Information: 010-69071509; 13520232026

Address: Room 1106, Lanbao Guoji Zhongxin, 3 Dawang Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing

Bejing Kaitai Law Firm Zip code: 100026

Items requested:

  1. Disclose to the applicant the detailed measures used by the Ministry of Public Affairs—in relation to Internet and mobile phone security—to prevent violations of citizens’ personal privacy and freedom of Internet communications.
  2. Disclose to the applicant whether the Ministry of Public Security has obtained approval and supervision from the National People’s Congress when conducting surveillance of Chinese citizens’ personal privacy and Internet communications.
  3. Disclose to the applicant the detailed procedures for approving Internet surveillance methods, and specify the parties that are legally and politically responsible.
  4. Disclose to the applicant remedies for surveillance activities resulting from abuse of official power, and how to activate the legal process of investigating infringement of citizens’ freedom of communications and personal privacy.

Legal basis for the application:

According to Articles 2 and 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and Articles 1 and 7 of the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information, the government is obliged to voluntarily disclose information under either of the following conditions: (1) the matter in question involves the interest of citizens, artificial persons1, or other entities; (2) it is necessary for the general public to know of or to take part in the matter in question. The applicant is submitting the above request as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China and a user of the Internet. He looks forward to the disclosure of the requested information in accordance with the law.


Submitted to the Ministry of Public Security of People’s Republic of China


Xie Yanyi

June 25, 2013


Originally posted on, please indicate source when reposting.

1. Artificial person is defined as a legal entity that is not a human being—such as a corporation or body politic—but for certain purposes is considered to be a natural person.^