Explainer | How is China changing its state secrets law and who will be affected?

by Vanessa Cai at scmp.com

China’s Law on Guarding State Secrets is having its first major update in a decade to expand the depth and reach of its coverage.

The law was introduced in 1988 and last revised in 2010.

Details of the draft changes were made public in October after being submitted for deliberation to the country’s top legislature.

Some of the major proposed amendments include stricter limits on travel for personnel with access to state secrets, additional government funds for keeping information secret and fresh power for authorities to search documents, personnel and electronic devices.

 What is a state secret under the law?

The law gives a general description of what is a state secret but Chinese authorities have given few – if any – specific examples.

The law defines state secrets as 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”.

It defines state secrets as confidential matters concerning the country’s security and interests related to major policy decisions, national defence and armed forces, diplomatic activities, national economic and social development, science and technology, state security and the investigation of criminal cases.

Under the law, state secrets are defined as “top secret”, “classified” or “secret”. The most confidential information comes under “vital state secrets”, which, if divulged, would “cause extremely serious harm to state security and national interests”.