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Chinese lawmakers mull stronger counterespionage focus

Chinese lawmakers are considering renaming the National Security Law with more provisions for counterespionage.

A bill submitted for first reading at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which will run through Monday to Sunday, suggests changing the title to the Counterespionage Law.

The country's counterespionage agencies currently face new circumstances and challenges and need stronger support from the legislation, said Geng Huichang, minister of national security, when explaining the bill to lawmakers.

The current law mainly regulates the work of the country's national security agencies, whose major duty is counterespionage.

The bill introduces new regulations about counterespionage work that has been proven effective in practice but not been written into the current law. It also rewrites articles that are not in line with other laws that have been revised in recent years, including the Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law.

Foreign organizations and individuals who conduct espionage activities, or who instigate and sponsor others to do it, will be punished, as will domestic organizations and individuals who spy on the country for foreign organizations and individuals, the bill proposes.

It grants national security agencies the authority to ask an organization or individual to stop or change their activities that are considered harmful to national security. If they refuse or fail to do so, the agencies will be entitled to seal or seize related properties.

The agencies are also entitled to seal and seize any device, money, venue, supplies and other properties that are related to espionage activities, according to the bill.

They will be either confiscated by national security agencies or handed over to judicial departments.

The illegal income and properties gained through knowingly hiding and fencing properties related to espionage will be confiscated, according to the bill.

The current national security law has not been revised since it took effect in 1993.

At the first meeting of the central national security commission in April, President Xi Jinping advocated an "overall national security outlook."

Xi stressed that the challenges China faces in maintaining national security today are more diverse than they have ever been, as it has seen complicated internal and external situations.

He talked up a "national security path with Chinese characteristics," the major goal of which is to protect the population. Maintaining political and economic security are essential to this goal while protecting military, cultural and social security are important means, according to the president.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 25Aug14]

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