China’s state police can search your smartphones and laptops under new rules from July

Expanding the powers of the law enforcement authorities to check and gather evidence, China has announced new regulations which will impact both Chinese nationals returning home and international tourists visiting the country.   

Under the new regulations, which are set to take effect from July 1, China’s state police can show their ID and search electronic devices, including smartphones, laptop and others, to gather electronic data to find out whether a criminal or illegal act has taken place.

According to a report by the Epoch Times, critics see this move as a response to the unprecedented crisis facing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, prompting advisories for people to avoid travelling to China.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), in its report, called the new rule as part of China’s nationwide campaign to ensure “national security,” a broad term often used by the Chinese government to include detailed economic data and political dissent.

As per China’s state-owned newspaper Legal Daily, the new regulations will grant law enforcement the authority to inspect electronic devices directly in emergency situations, with the presentation of police or reconnaissance credentials, though the rules lack clear definitions of what constitutes an emergency or its parameters.

The documents issued by the Chinese Ministry of State Security on April 26 empower its authorities to gather “electronic data” relating to an investigation including “mobile phone text messages, emails, instant messages and group chats,” along with “documents, images, audio and video, apps and … log records” from electronic devices, as reported by RFA.

“The collection and extraction of electronic data shall be carried out by two or more investigators,” the new order read. 

Under the new regulations, police can investigate purely to determine “basic information about the suspect,” and even whether an illegal or criminal act has taken place, according to reports.

Incidentally, in the April 29 issue of Study Times, the official journal of CCP’s highest internal training institution Central Party School, Chinese Minister of State Security Chen Yixin highlighted the ministry’s focus of combating subversion, hegemony, separatism, terrorism, and espionage.

Reporting on the new rules, which have been claimed to be a set of guidelines for implementing the “national security concept,” China’s state-owned Global Times mentioned the nationwide campaign, citing the cases of Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor as examples of foreign spies operating in China.

Tang Jingyuan, a US-based China affairs commentator, was quoted as saying by the Epoch Times, “I believe these measures align with a recent Chinese Ministry of State Security campaign to curb the influx of foreign information. It will push society towards a wartime mechanism and serve as a soft form of isolationist measures.”

According to a report by Epoch Times, Lai Jianping, a Chinese human rights lawyer living in the United States, believes the Chinese Communist Party is facing an unprecedented crisis that will lead to further restrictions on civil freedom through heightened social control.

“These regulations will only breed more discontent among the people. People know it violates the regime’s own laws and constitution, as well as the United Nations’ Human Rights Convention,” Lai Jianping was quoted as saying. “While individuals may not know how to resist these decisions, their frustration will intensify, leading to a continued decline in the party’s ruling legitimacy.”

According to a RFA report, there have been multiple reports indicating that police in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities have intercepted people’s mobile phones on streets or in subway carriages for several years. 

Following the White Paper Movement in 2022, security checks were extended to residents’ homes, the report added.

Noting that the Chinese customs department has been conducting random inspections of electronic devices of individuals entering China for the past few years, political commentator Chen Daoyin told Voice of America (VOA) that the recent move by the CCP regime aims to standardize administrative and law enforcement procedures through legislation.

“The stronger the sense of crisis a regime has, the stronger its desire for control,” he was quoted as saying by VOA.

The commentator advised Chinese travellers abroad to purchase new smartphones for local use to ensure “physical isolation,” cautioning that deleted WhatsApp messages can still be recovered, reports VOA.







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