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UN rights chief worried by breadth of China security law

BERLIN (AP) — The United Nations’ human rights chief said Tuesday that he is worried by the wide scope and the vagueness of a new national security law approved last week by China’s legislature.

China’s National Security Law reinforces government controls over cyberspace and covers a wide range of other areas including the economy, social stability, territorial integrity, the military, culture, finance, technology, the environment and food safety.

The law “raises many concerns due to its extraordinarily broad scope coupled with the vagueness of its terminology and definitions,” Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

“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,” he added.

The new law is an extension of the hard line on security and repeated warnings against foreign ideological subversion issued by the government of President Xi Jinping, who in 2013 established an overarching National Security Commission to coordinate such efforts with him as chairman.

Zeid argued that national security laws need to be specific enough that people can foresee the consequences of their behavior and to safeguard against arbitrary enforcement.

“The law should clearly and narrowly define what constitutes a threat to national security, and identify proper mechanisms to address such threats in a proportionate manner,” Zeid said.

He added that he welcomes the fact the new Chinese legislation specifically refers to the country’s constitution and respect for human rights, but is concerned about a lack of independent oversight.

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