China Passes Controversial Counter-Terrorism Law, Wants Access to Encryption Keys

The People’s Republic of China held its parliamentary session recently, approving a counter-terrorism law that may cause ripples around domestically and globally. The new law requires tech companies to hand over sensitive information to the Chinese government, causing much concern amongst European and US governments over fears that the new legislation infringes on several human rights including freedom of speech.

While the approved law is a step back from the initial draft, it still uses a broad language that could mean anything. The initial draft clearly required every piece of secure information, like encryption keys for user communications and data, from global tech companies operating in China. These companies include giants like Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi.

What Does the New Counter-Terrorism Law Mean for Stakeholders in China?

The controversial law not only raises questions about the potential impacts of this but can also impact companies operating in China especially those which are headquartered there. Chinese authorities say the law is intended to prevent terrorism in the country and protect the citizens of China from external threats.

Initial draft of the law was made available about a year ago and was widely criticised by the western nations and business groups rights advocates alike. They stated that China is forcing down arduous requirements for companies with proprietary data and private consumer data.

The final version of the approved law entails that telecom operators and internet providers are to help the Chinese government in decrypting data and assist in other counter-terrorism efforts. What’s changed from the draft is the controversial language which clearly stated that all secure information be stored in China and should be handed over to the authorities and was applicable to all tech companies.

The new version changes the statement to a broader wording that all technical companies must provide “technical means of support” to Chinese authorities. This has raised concerns with US-based tech firms like Google and Apple.

In a Post-Snowden World

Ever since Edward Snowden leaked that tech firms have been working with governments and users’ private data is no longer private as they previously believed, the tech giants have started taking measures to gain back their users’ trust. Apple and Google have even claimed that they don’t store encryption keys for user data.

Western governments criticising the matter is rather rhetorical. They have been the most active ones to gain control of global user data. Recently, Apple criticized a UK proposal a week ago that will allow national agencies to monitor all communications including access to encrypted data. Even the US President supported UK’s agenda in January.

The Chinese officials say that Chinese law has been implemented after studying the European and US legislation on the matter of counterterrorism. The new law also includes authority to take action in foreign lands if the situation requires it. China’s parliament has also published another draft that seeks to control foreign non-government groups in China.

He is the Editor-in-Chief at ProPakistani. Reach out at aadil.s[at]

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