China's legislature approves much maligned anti-terrorism law

China's legislature approved an anti-terrorism law that was opposed by business groups, President Obama, and human rights organisations.

The legislation complicates an already uneasy dance of multinational companies operating in China. The law requires companies turn over user data and assist Chinese police or security agents with decryption in terrorist investigations and related cases.

In March, President Obama criticised the previous version of the legislation. He told Reuters, “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.”

A previous draft of the legislation would have required technology, financial institutions and manufacturing companies to install “back doors” or hand over encryption keys and user information to Chinese agencies.

The law states that ISPs and telecomm providers “shall provide technical interfaces, decryption and other technical support and assistance to public security and state security agencies when they are following the law to avert and investigate terrorist activities.”

US lawmakers have advocated for similar decryption capabilities and backdoors for government agencies. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a column arguing that the US government should find a way to work with tech companies to encrypt devices but retain a backdoor accessible to law enforcement.