25th Session Watch Pt. 2: NPCSC Reviewing a Draft National Intelligence Law—in Secrecy

As was revealed late last Monday, the tentative agenda of the current NPCSC session (which we discussed in the last post) had undergone several changes. The most notable was a new draft law named National Intelligence Law. The press release of the first meeting of the 25th Session contained the following short paragraph on this draft law:

In order to strengthen and safeguard national intelligence efforts, and to defend national security and interests, the State Council submitted a draft National Intelligence Law for deliberation. Entrusted by the State Council, CHEN Wenqing, the Minister of State Security, made an explanation.

What was unusual, however, was the complete lack of media coverage of this law in the four days since. State media did not report on the content of the law, nor on the NPCSC members’ discussion of the law yesterday. While national security legislations are “sensitive” in nature, and their media coverage is normally tightly controlled, the absence of any report is still a deviation from the usual course of action.

In the following chart, we surveyed (1) whether the media reported on the contents of recent national security legislations; (2) whether the media reported on NPCSC members’ opinions on the first drafts of these legislations; (3) if the answer to either of the first two questions is affirmative, whether the media was allowed to report “freely” (by which we mean they were allowed to publish non-Xinhua reports); and (4) whether the first drafts were released for public comments.

Legislations
(Submission date)
Media reported on contents of first drafts? Media reported on NPCSC members’ opinions on first drafts? First drafts released for public comments?
Counter-Espionage Law
(Aug. 2014)

Freely

Freely
Counter-Terrorism Law
(Oct. 2014)

Freely
National Security Law
(Dec. 2014)

NOT freely

NOT freely
Foreign NGO Law*
(Dec. 2014)

NOT freely

NOT freely
Cybersecurity Law
(Jun. 2015)

NOT freely

NOT freely
National Intelligence Law
(Dec. 2016)
?
[Update: ❌]

Short for the Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations’ Activities within Mainland China.

Clearly, the National Intelligence Law is the outlier. It almost seems that its content is so sensitive that the government is treating this law itself as national intelligence.

Judging from the current situation, it’s very likely that its first draft won’t be released for public comments. While the Legislation Law generally requires the NPCSC to solicit public opinions on all the laws it reviews, the Law also provides for an exception when the Council of Chairmen decides otherwise—which apparently happened to the first drafts of the National Security Law and the Foreign NGO Law.

As is well documented, China’s recent national security legislations have invariably imposed restrictions on various entities’ rights and freedom. There is no reason to believe the National Intelligence Law to be any different, especially given the apparent ban on media coverage of this law.

Nevertheless, we believe this draft law would complete the usual three-deliberation process before being passed. At least this session won’t approve it.

Other Updates

Another item on the tentative agenda—a draft authorization to temporarily suspend the enforcement of several provisions of the Civil Servant Law—also received zero media coverage. Like when we wrote the analysis of the tentative agenda roughly a week ago, we still know nothing about this authorization, except that it was requested by the State Council (and more specifically by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security). It’s anyone’s guess what would make such an authorization potentially controversial.

Besides the National Intelligence Law, another bill was submitted to this Session at the last minute. The State Council requested a second authorization to suspend the enforcement of several provisions of the Social Insurance Law in several cities. As YIN Weimin, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, explained to the NPCSC, the State Council is conducting reform pilots in twelve cities to combine the maternity insurance funds and the basic health insurance funds. Because the Social Insurance Law stipulates that the two types of funds should be set up separately, an NPCSC authorization is required.

Lastly, because the NPC Law Committee recommended this NPCSC session to pass the Chinese Medicine Law, the Law on Ensuring Public Cultural Services, and the Environmental Protection Tax Law, it’s almost certain that these three laws would be approved. We also expect the NPCSC to approve the four reform authorizations it’s now reviewing.

The final agenda can be found here, and the daily schedule here.

3 thoughts on “25th Session Watch Pt. 2: NPCSC Reviewing a Draft National Intelligence Law—in Secrecy

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