BEIJING: China's intelligence agencies would have stronger powers to monitor and investigate foreigners in the country and Chinese citizens everywhere under a newly proposed law codifying the work of Beijing's vast security apparatus.
The government under President Xi Jinping over the past several years has sought to expand and provide legal foundations for intelligence agency powers in the name of national security and combating terrorism.
The moves have sparked concern from the US government and human rights groups that say the new powers could be used to suppress political dissent, silence foreign organizations working in China and force technology companies to give the Communist Party access to sensitive information.
A coalition of business groups from Japan, Britain, the US and other countries this week appealed to China to postpone a newly adopted cybersecurity law. They warned it could violate Beijing's free-trade commitments. Chinese officials maintain tighter data controls are needed to prevent terrorism and anti-government activity.
The latest proposal would allow authorities to use electronic surveillance techniques and seize vehicles and real estate. It calls for collaboration on intelligence operations at all levels of Chinese society, including the military, public institutions and citizens.
"Foreign bodies, organisations or individuals engaging in acts harming the national security and interests of the People's Republic of China within Chinese borders must be punished by law," the proposal declares.
The law also states that intelligence operatives who abuse their powers will be subject to prosecution.
In April, authorities in Beijing began offering cash rewards of up to 500,000 yuan ($72,500) for citizens who turn in foreign spies. The proposed law allows for rewards for "major contributions" to intelligence activities to be offered nationwide.