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China's Draft Cybersecurity Law Could Let Local Governments Shut Off Internet

It would be a further tightening of China's already strict control over the internet.

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A draft cybersecurity law released on Monday in China shows that the country is further tightening its control of the digital space.

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Upon approval, the law will in theory protect Chinese citizens' personal data. At the same time, it would authorize local government to restrict internet access in certain areas during public-security emergencies.

Public opinions are being collected from July 6 to August 5 on the website of China's legislature, the National People's Congress. So far, 1,961 anonymous opinions have been collected as of press time. An English version of the full draft can be found here.

The new cybersecurity law's introduction comes just days after the passage of the sweeping National Security Law, tightening government's control over a large range of issues including information.

If passed, the law would be a further codifying of what's already done in practice. In 2009, during and after deadly riots that killed at least 197 in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang province, internet access was entirely cut off for months.

The proposed law has since widely raised international concerns. But in China, the conversation is likely being drowned out by the current stock market crisis, as noted on Sina Weibo by popular internet commenter Shi Fei Ke.

But thousands have still picked it up the debate. Wang Sixin, a professor from Law School of Communication University of China, worries and asks on Weibo. "Is the Cybersecurity Law really secure?"

Weibo / Via weibo.com

He added, "I just read the draft and feel that the proposal is too nation-centered and government-centered, as if questions including individual's freedom of communication and expression, enterprises' basic needs and developing needs, and international convention don't have to be put into consideration."

A county judge from Shanxi Province commented on Weibo: "Every sovereignty has the right to control its internet for national security purpose within the range of its sovereignty."

One user urges everybody to review the draft to prevent the realization of George Orwell's 1984, and says he has uploaded several suggestions himself to the government's suggestions page.

The draft is only a further tightening censorship from China. Among the 30 most popular sites worldwide, 16 are blocked including Facebook, Google, and newly-blocked Mandarin Wikipedia, as one user listed on Twitter — which is also blocked.

本月中文维基百科被墙以后,全球前30大英文网站还有14个能在中国正常访问。

In 2009, during and after deadly riots that caused at least 197 lives in Urumqi, capital city of far-western Xinjiang Province, internet access was entirely cut off for months.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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