Move will help tackle foreign spies: experts
China's first intelligence law, which empowers the country's intelligence agency to investigate overseas individuals and organizations if necessary, went into effect on Wednesday, and experts said that the law could also help crack down on foreign spies and safeguard national security.
The National Intelligence Law was approved at the end of a bi-monthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee which concluded on Tuesday.
China's intelligence personnel should collect and process intelligence related to overseas organizations and individuals or anyone sponsored or instigated by them, as well as relevant intelligence about threats to China's national security and interests, reads the law.
"The widespread terrorism is one reason for China to gather intelligence abroad. The intelligence work will be extended to places where China's interests are involved," Wang Qiang, a specialist on non-war military actions at National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, told the Global Times.
Wang added that different from the Counter-espionage Law, which was implemented in November 2014 and focused on defense, the new law aims at taking active actions to deal with those who could pose a threat to national security.
China's intelligence personnel are drawn from the Ministry of State Security, the military and public security bureaus, reads the law.
"Foreign spies are rampant in China. The intelligence law, which also supports counter-espionage work, gives Chinese intelligence officials more power and 'legal authorization' to crack down on spies, who conduct their operations in the shadow," Li Wei, an expert on anti-terrorism at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The law also empowers intelligence personnel to "enter restricted zones and venues, and examine and acquire relevant documents, materials and objects with proper approval.
"The National Intelligence Law lays the legal foundation as well as provides guidelines to authorities on intelligence work at home a and abroad via cooperation among multiple departments," Wang said, noting that it will also encourage international intelligence exchange.
"Previously, intelligence personnel needed to ask permission from authorities on a case-by-case basis as there was no law in the field. Now they can carry out their intelligence work in accordance with the law," Li said.
"The new law ends the previous practice of collecting intelligence separately, and it systemizes China's intelligence work for the first time," Wang said.
Wang also mentioned that the law will help prevent violations of human rights, as it stipulates that intelligence personnel should not abuse their power for their own interests.
Those who leak national secrets, and simulate or obstruct intelligence work would be punished by security departments. And those who have committed crimes would be held accountable.