The amended Law on Protection of State Secrets (“State Secrets Law”) was adopted by the Standing Committee of the NPC on April 29, 2010, and is set to take effect on October 1, 2010. The State Secrets Law has received much attention following the highly publicized arrests and sentencing of four Rio Tinto executives and the sentencing of a US geologist.
Among other changes, one major revision specifically requires Internet service providers and other network operators to cooperate with public security officials, state security officials, and prosecutors in the investigation of any leak of state secrets that may have occurred through the use of their Internet or media networks. The Internet service providers and network operators also are charged with affirmative duties to keep records related to any leak of state secrets, to report such leak to the government authorities, and immediately cease the transmission of any relevant information. The amended law also lists more specific types of actions in relation to state secrets that may lead to criminal penalties.
Although many of these new requirements are specifically imposed on the telecommunications industry, the increased monitoring may be relevant for other companies as well, since the government’s increased vigilance may have an impact on employees’ use of company-provided Internet/ Intranet and computer systems to transmit information overseas and companies may need to be more careful than before regarding such transmissions. While the newly amended law has somewhat clarified the previous definition of what constitutes a state secret and what types of actions may lead to criminal liability, government officials still retain broad discretion to determine what type of information would fall under this definition.