The Chinese government has introduced its first first counter-terrorism laws, but western companies operating in China say the laws allow the Chinese to snoop on all of their activities.

Under the new laws, all organizations and businesses in China have to “offer technological assistance and cooperation with security departments to help prevent and investigate terrorist activities.” In simple terms this means cracking the encryption in any device or app when authorities ask.

The deputy head of the Chinese parliament’s criminal law division’s deputy head, Li Shouwei, says the law is not peculiar to China.

“This rule accords with the actual work need of fighting terrorism and is basically the same as what other major countries in the world do,” he says.

Li says the Chinese government even looked at the U.S. for examples of counter terrorism laws, citing America’s Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act as an example. The law requires telecom companies to help the FBI and other agencies to spy on people and companies, provided they have a court’s approval.

The Chinese law states “Providers of telecommunications, Internet, finance, accommodation and passenger transport services should also check the identity of clients”. This effectively kills off any online anonymity.

All foreign companies operating in China will have to comply to the laws, or leave the country. One of the ironies of the new law is that companies offering cyber security services will have to lay open their secrets to the government.

The new law also makes it a crime to “disseminate information on forged terrorist incidents, report on or disseminate details of terrorist activities that might lead to imitation, nor publish scenes of cruelty or inhumanity about terrorist activities.”

Li claims the law will respect human rights, although an earlier draft targeted mandatory backdoors in all encryption used by all Chinese citizens.

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