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China legislature deliberates draft amendment to state secrets law

THE Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) today deliberated a draft amendment to the state secrets law.

The draft was submitted for its second reading during the NPC Standing Committee's bimonthly session that started Wednesday. The first reading was done last June.

The draft specifies a definition for state secrets: information that concerns state security and interests and, if leaked, would damage state security and interests in the areas of politics, economy and national defense, among others.

NPC Law Committee Vice Chairman Sun Anmin, who briefed lawmakers on the draft amendment, said secrets basically have three classifications: state, work and commercial.

The existing law on guarding state secrets, which took effect in May 1989, stipulated information concerning major state policies and decisions, armed forces and diplomatic events, national economic and social development, science and technology, and acts safeguarding national security and criminal investigation, among other items, were state secrets.

According to the NPC, the amendment aims to boost citizens' awareness of the importance of safeguarding state secrets, with the original stipulation of the range of state secrets being too wide and vague.

The draft makes clear that state secrets should be protected by law and "any act threatening the security of a state secret must be punished by law."

It also defines secrecy levels and authority limits in the definition, and makes clear time limits for different levels of confidentiality and conditions for declassification.

"The time limits for keeping state secrets should be decided in line with its nature and the need to safeguard national security and interests," it says.

The time limit for keeping top-level secrets should be no more than 30 years, no more than 20 years for low-level state secrets, and less than 10 years for ordinary state secrets, the draft says.

It says public entities and companies whose work concerns state secrets, such as armaments research and manufacture, should be subject to security scrutiny.

Enterprises and public entities entrusted to work with state secrets should sign confidentiality agreements, it says.

The police and state security departments should play their role in handling cases concerning state secrets.

Lawmakers will also review the draft law on mobilization for national defense for the third time at the three-day legislative session.

Amendments to the Administrative Supervision Law and the Copyright Law, which were submitted for first reading, will also be deliberated during the session.

The legislative session will also make final preparations for the 11th NPC annual session which is scheduled to begin March 5.


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