China’s Chongqing first to roll out local anti-espionage rules

By Liz Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chongqing, a Chinese megacity of more than 32 million people, has pioneered a local version of the country’s expanded counter-espionage law, requiring institutions to go through security screening when organising overseas trips.

The regulations, containing 29 articles, cover more defined and targeted counter-espionage measures than the broader national law, including setting stern oversight on overseas-related exchanges and travel.

The regulations also require institutions and personnel stationed abroad to develop security plans.

China expanded its counter-espionage law in July, much to the alarm of the United States, with wide-ranging updates including banning the transfer of any information related to national security and broadening the definition of spying.

Chongqing also reviewed and approved its anti-spy regulations in July, China’s state security ministry said in a notice posted on its WeChat Thursday.

The ministry lauded Chongqing’s speed in implementing its counter-espionage regulation, saying it demonstrated how local legislation could be “simple”, “quick” and “effective”.

It said the regulations refined enforceability of counter-espionage work, providing Chongqing “clearer legislative guidance” to carry out such efforts.

Aside from publishing and broadcasting anti-espionage materials in the media, security prevention knowledge should be incorporated into civil service training and the school curriculum, the regulations say.

Courier services in the municipality will also need to undergo national security considerations before they are allowed to operate.

Last month, the country’s state security called on its citizens to join counter-espionage work, creating channels for individuals to report suspicious activity as well as commending and rewarding them.

In the same month, the ministry said it uncovered two citizens spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, detailing how the accused were recruited and placing them under investigation.

China this year has also cracked down on U.S. consultancy and due diligence firms, a move business lobbies have said unnerved foreign investors in the world’s second-largest economy.

U.S. firm Mintz Group was raided and fined about $1.5 million for doing “unapproved statistical work”, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics.

The U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center said in June that China viewed outbound flow of data as a national security risk, and that the new and existing laws could compel companies’ locally employed Chinese nationals to assist in Chinese intelligence efforts.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie)