The expansion of China’s counter-espionage law further threatens journalists

Appalled by the expansion of China’s counter-espionage law, which will enter into force in July and will pose increased threat on journalists and press freedom defenders, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) call on the international community to put pressure on the regime to withdraw these measures.

On 1 July 2023, an expanded version of China’s counter-espionage law will enter into force, broadening the definition of espionage to the simple fact of accessing “documents, data, materials or items related to national security and interests”. The new text will also allow authorities to impose an exit ban on any suspected individual, no matter their nationality, and grant them with extensive investigation power against those suspected of espionage.

“Over the past decade, the Chinese regime has increasingly been using trumped-up accusations of espionage as a weapon against independent voices including journalists, and the widening of the counter-espionage law gives it even more striking power. We urge the international community to build up pressure for the regime to withdraw these measures and release all 113 journalists and press freedom defenders currently detained in the


Cédric Alviani
RSF East Bureau Director

The Counter-espionage Law, passed by Chinese lawmakers in 2014, carries the penalty of life imprisonment and is so broadly defined that it can be applied to almost any journalistic activity. 

In April 2023, the family of Chinese journalist Dong Yuyu, editor at Guangming Daily newspaper, revealed that he had been detained on “espionage” charges for over one year, after meeting with a Japanese diplomat. Three foreign journalists of Chinese descent are also currently detained on “espionage” charges: Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, founder of a Hong Kong publishing house, who was sentenced in 2020 to ten years in prison, and Australian journalists Yang Hengjun and Cheng Lei, arrested in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and since detained without verdict given. 

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a full-scale crusade against journalism as revealed in RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China

China ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders.

172/ 180
Score : 23.36
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