On March 1, the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets will go into effect.
When first announced on February 2, the Xinhua News Agency presented them as “an effort to boost government transparency.” However, the regulations, read together with the People’s Republic of China’s Law on Guarding State Secrets (revised in 2010), reflect no changes to the vague, circular, and overbroad definition of what constitutes a state secret, and no loosening of the policy of information control at the heart of the state secrets system.
Instead, the revision of both the law and implementing regulations is undertaken specifically to address the rapid rise of the Internet and digital platforms in China: to expand the scope of state secrets protection to include all public information networks, e.g., the Internet, traditional media, and the full range of sectors (hardware, software, service providers, etc.) and create express responsibilities and liabilities for a comprehensive range of actors.
For more information about China’s state secrets framework and a full English translation of the new regulations, see below.
Background on China’s State Secrets Legal Framework
China’s State Secrets legal framework is made up of three main levels of laws, regulations, and rules.
There is currently no publicly available information on what categories of specific information are classified, or the process for classification of specific information categories by the relevant departments or organs. As with previous versions of the law and regulations, this total opacity continues to pose key risks to citizens. Basic principles of fairness at the very least require laws that clearly set out what constitutes prohibited conduct.