ReutersBEIJING (Reuters) — China’s Cabinet on Wednesday released broad new definitions of conduct punishable under its three-year-old counter-espionage law, as China seeks to bolster its defense against threats to national security and social stability.
Over five years, President Xi Jinping has ushered in a flurry of new state security legislation to defend from perceived threats both inside and outside China’s borders.
Rights groups and foreign governments have criticized the national security laws as being written in such a way to allow the party state to target activists or dissidents who challenge the Communist Party or call for political reform.
In new regulations on implementing a counter-espionage law first adopted in 2014, China’s state council expanded on the legislation to clarify, for example, that collusion involves any form of contact or assistance with groups that harm China’s national security.
The rules include behavior, such as using religion or cults to harm national security, that go beyond standard definitions of espionage, namely the practice of obtaining information about a foreign government by spying.
The state council rules say that “hostile groups” include any groups that challenge the power of the Chinese Communist Party or the “socialist system.”
Foreigners who fabricate or distort facts and issue information harmful to China’s national security can be punished, as can people who do not listen to advice and meet individuals harmful to national security, according to the regulations.Speech