After three reviews of the first draft released for public comment on November 3, 2014, China’s first anti-terrorism law (“ATL”) was passed on December 27, 2015, and came into effect on January 1, 2016.

Some provisions under the ATL particularly affect telecommunications and information service providers (“ISPs”) and related service providers:

  1. ISPs are required to provide technical interfaces, decryption, and technical support and assistance to the state security agencies that prevent and investigate terrorist activities.
  2. ISPs must also verify their users’ identities and must not provide services to those without clear identities or those who are not cooperative in the identity verification process.
  3. Related service providers are required to assist in investigations and to censor information in their daily tasks by:
    1. implementing network security and information content monitoring systems, and technical prevention and safety measures to avoid the dissemination of information with terrorist or extremist content; and
    2. immediately stopping the dissemination of any information discovered with terrorist or extremist content, saving relevant records, deleting information and reporting the situation to the relevant authorities.
  4. Non-compliance can result in penalties, including fines of up to RMB 500,000 for the companies and individuals directly in charge, and even administrative detention of between 5 and 15 days for the responsible person in serious cases. The first draft released raised concerns among international technology enterprises regarding network security. Although some major areas of concern were not included in the ATL (such as the obligation to keep relevant equipment and data regarding local users within the territory of China), it is still considered controversial that access and extended handling could put data protection and privacy at risk.

It is expected that more detailed implementation rules will be issued defining, among others, ISPs and the extent of the authorities’ intervention.

Date of issue: December 27, 2015. Effective date: January 1, 2016