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China now require all 710 million internet users to register their real names with internet service providers before surfing the web.
On Monday, the Chinese government passed the controversial 2016 Cybersecurity Law in an effort to further control and censor the internet across the country.
“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes,” said Sophie Richardson, China Director. “The already heavily censored Internet in China needs more freedom, not less.”
The third and final reading draft, which has not been officially published, reflects some changes from the first draft. Yet the fundamentally abusive aspects of the initial draft remain unchanged. The final draft:
The final draft contains two noteworthy changes compared to the first. In addition to prohibiting individuals from using the Internet to “endanger national security, advocate terrorism or extremism, [or] propagate ethnic hatred and discrimination,” article 12 of the second draft also prohibits them from “overthrowing the socialist system” and “fabricating or spreading false information to disturb economic order.” The third draft adds to this list, banning the use of the Internet “to incite separatism or damage national unity.” These crimes, some codified in criminal law, are regularly used to punish and jail peaceful activists and can result in lengthy sentences.
Article 46 of the final draft also prohibits individuals or groups from establishing “websites and communication groups” that are used for “spreading criminal methods” or “other information related to unlawful and criminal activities.” But as critical stories or protest are regularly criminalized in China, this article may encourage further self-censorship on social media.