Top legislature Monday reviewed for the first time a draft revision to the Law on Guarding State Secrets, underlining the cutoff of Internet or other public network access to the country's confidential information.
The draft revision was submitted to the ninth session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) for deliberation. It had been discussed and passed in April at an executive meeting of the State Council, the Cabinet.
The ninth session of the Standing Committee of the 11th NPC opens in Beijing, China, June 22, 2009. (Photo by Wang Xinqing)
Xia Yong, head of the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets (NAPSS), said parts of the existing secrets law had become obsolete.
The current law took effect on May 1, 1989.
"New situations and problems have emerged in guarding state secrets as the country's social and economic development advances rapidly, especially with the introduction and development of information technology and the application of e-government."
The materials to preserve and handle state secrets have changed from paper to acoustic, optical, electronic and magnetic forms, which created the need for corresponding policies, according to the official.
An investigation by the NPC found that the proportion of secret-leaking cases through the Internet accounted for more than 70 percent of the total.
The revision added issues including taking technical measures to protect networks where secret information was stored and fire walling computers or other storage devices containing secret information from public connections.
According to the draft revision, computers and storage devices containing confidential information would not be allowed to be connected to Internet and other public network services.
In cases where no protective measures were adopted, confidential information would be banned from being transmitted through wired and wireless communications, Internet and other public information network services.
Some economic and social organizations' involvement with secrets and the mobility of personnel with access to classified information had increased the difficulty of guarding state secrets and called for improved management measures, said Xia.
The draft revision would minimize the number of people having access to state secrets and set up more scientific secret recognition, rating and termination procedures amid efforts to improve efficiency.
Statistics show the United States generates about 100,000 classified documents annually, while the number in China amounted to several million.
According to the existing law on guarding state secrets, state secrets refer to classified information concerning major policies and decisions of state affairs, national defense and activities of the armed forces, diplomatic activities, national economic and social development, science and technology, activities to safeguard state security and the investigation of crimes, and other items that are classified as state secrets by the state secret protection departments.
In 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declassified diplomatic documents compiled after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a pioneering move among government agencies.
In 2005, at a press conference jointly held by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and NAPSS, it was announced that death tolls in natural disasters and related information were no longer considered as state secrets.
Besides the draft revision to the Law on Guarding State Secrets, lawmakers will finish the discussion of a draft revision to the Law on Statistics, the amendments to the Law on State Compensation, and legislation on diplomatic agents and island protection during the NPC meeting, which runs from June 22 to 27.