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China Proposes Rule Allowing Police to Cut Internet Access During 'Crisis'

By Li Rongde

(Beijing) — China is looking to further tighten its grip on the internet with a draft rule that would allow police — all the way down to the county level — to cut off access to the internet for a period of time during natural disasters, public health crises or times of social unrest.

"If necessary, police authorities at the county level and above can take measures to control the internet to deal with emergency situations after getting approval from the provincial or central governments," said a draft revision to the 1995 People's Police Law, released by the Ministry of Public Security on Thursday.

Counties are near the bottom of China's five-tier government administration system, which includes the central, provincial or regional, and city authorities, plus county and township administrations.

The revision to the police law comes after President Xi Jinping called for greater efforts to develop homegrown network technology to improve cybersecurity in October.

This is the first time a rule has been introduced that would enable a law enforcement agency to curb online access.

The country blocked or limited access to the internet, short messaging services and international phone calls for 10 months in the northwestern region of Xinjiang after ethnic riots in July 2009, according to reports from the official Xinhua News Agency. A total 197 people died in the riots and over 1,700 other were injured, the regional government said. Xinjiang is home to China's Uighur ethnic minority.

The proposed rule also allows police to block access to the internet at a venue where a major public gathering or state event such as a military parade is being held, or "when an individual or specific target (important public building or place) requires protection."

Lawmakers are soliciting public comments on the draft rule until Dec. 31, the ministry said. But it has not said when the law would come into effect.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (poornima@caixin.com)

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