June 5, 2017
China activists fear increased surveillance with new security law
(Refiles this May 25 story to add "Chinese" to advocacy group's name in paragraph 13.)
By Christian Shepherd
Chinese activists say they fear intensified state surveillance after a draft law seeking to legitimize monitoring of suspects and raid premises was announced last week, the latest step to strengthen Beijing's security apparatus.
Half a dozen activists contacted by Reuters say they already face extensive surveillance by security agents and cameras outside their homes. Messages they post on social media, including instant messaging applications like WeChat are monitored and censored, they said.
The draft of a new law to formally underpin and possibly expand China's intelligence gathering operations at home and abroad was released on May 16.
However, the law was vaguely worded and contained no details on the specific powers being granted to various state agencies.
"State intelligence work should...provide support to guard against and dispel state security threats (and) protect major national interests," the document said.
The law will give authorities new legal grounds to monitor and investigate foreign and domestic individuals and bodies in order to protect national security, it said.
Public consultation for the draft ends on June 4. It is unclear when the final version may be passed.
Hu Jia, a well-known dissident, said the release was met with fear and despair in his circle of reform-minded activists, where it was seen as a sign of strengthening resolve in the ruling Communist Party to crush dissent.
"Before, the party acted in secret, but now they have confidence to openly say: 'We are watching you'," Hu told Reuters.
"The law is also partly to frighten people ahead of the 19th Party Congress; to tell them to be careful, to be quiet," he added. Hu was referring to the once in five years congress of the Communist Party likely to be held in October or November in which President Xi Jinping is likely to further cement his hold on power by appointing allies into the party's inner core.
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