GENEVA (Reuters) - China’s new national security law is too vague and could lead to tighter restrictions on civil liberties, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
China’s legislature adopted a sweeping national security law last week that covers everything from territorial sovereignty to measures to tighten cyber security, a move likely to rile foreign businesses.
The Xinhua state news agency said the law would “protect people’s fundamental interests”.
”This law raises many concerns due to its extraordinarily broad scope, coupled with the vagueness of its terminology and definitions,” U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra‘ad al Hussein said in a statement.
“As a result, it leaves the door wide open to further restrictions of the rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens and to even tighter control of civil society by the Chinese authorities than there is already.”
The U.N. statement said the law’s scope included such areas as the environment, defense, culture, education and religion.
“It also defines the meaning of national security extremely broadly: it is described as the condition in which the country’s government, sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, well-being of its people, sustainable development of its economy and society and other major interests are relatively safe and not subject to internal and external threats,” it said.
Under the law, individuals must not act to endanger national security nor help people or organizations who are endangering national security, the U.N. statement said.
Zeid said he was concerned about the lack of independent oversight of how the law was applied and said restricting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly needed to serve a legitimate aim and be necessary and proportionate.
China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, deeply resents outside criticism of its domestic policies, especially concerning security issues and human rights, and often responds forcefully to such rebukes.
Zeid said China’s National People’s Congress would soon consider laws on regulating foreign non-governmental organizations and counter-terrorism. He said security and human rights should be mutually reinforcing and complementary.
A spokeswoman for China’s parliament said in March that there were 6,000 foreign NGOs operating in the country and they needed to be effectively managed “to sufficiently protect our country’s security and social stability.”
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Gareth Jones