China has recently cleared one of the toughest anti-terrorism laws in the wake of the trouble brewing in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region, and it has sent a disturbing ripples across technology companies who fear that they may have to hand over sensitive and encrypted data to the Chinese government in the name of surveillance. The law was passed despite objections from major tech companies. The new anti-terrorism law may even force tech companies out of China, according to Forbes. Although, this New York Times report quotes a Chinese state media report that says that in the draft version the demand of making it mandatory for the technology companies to hand over sensitive proprietary data to the Chinese government has been dropped. Nonetheless, the companies will be required to hand over technical information in case particular bits of information need to be decrypted by the police and the law enforcement bodies in case there is a terrorist case or a state of emergency.
According to the text appearing in the draft:
Telecommunication and Internet service providers “shall provide technical interfaces, decryption and other technical support and assistance to public security and state security agencies when they are following the law to avert and investigate terrorist activities”.
According to the above Forbes link, another fear being expressed by technology companies is that in the garb of maintaining law and order in case of terrorist problems, the Chinese government may force foreign tech companies to surrender their proprietary information and then this information will be handed over to their competitors, mostly local companies. The power corridors in Washington fear that access to proprietary technology may also give “back doors” entry into Western governments.
The Chinese government is of course denying such things. According to Li Shouwei, the deputy chief of the NPC’s legislative affairs committee, “The anti-terrorism law will not affect the normal business operation of companies, and there does not exist the problem of this law creating ‘back doors’ to violate the intellectual property rights of companies or to undermine citizens’ freedom of speech or religion on the internet.”