China has today passed a controversial cybersecurity bill, tightening restrictions on online freedom of speech.
The bill also imposes new rules on online service providers, raising concerns it is further cloistering its heavily controlled internet.
The legislation, passed by China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament and set to take effect in June 2017, is an ‘objective need’ of China as a major internet power, a parliament official said.
Amnesty International, however, said it was ‘draconian’ measure that violates people’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
The ruling Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system, dubbed the Great Firewall, that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out internet content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing’s human rights record and criticism of the government.
It has aggressively blocked major companies such as Google and Facebook from offering their services in its domestic cyber space.
The law, which was approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, is largely focused on protecting the country’s networks and private user information.
But it also bans internet users from publishing a wide variety of information, including anything that damages ‘national honour’, ‘disturbs economic or social order’ or is aimed at ‘overthrowing the socialist system’.
A provision requiring companies to verify a user’s identity effectively makes it illegal to go online anonymously.
Companies providing online services in the country must provide ‘technical support and help’ to public security organs investigating ‘crimes’, which would normally include those related to speech.