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China state secrets system 'undermining rule of law': rights group report

[JURIST] Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] said Monday that the state secrets system in China [JURIST news archive] gives the government virtually complete power to halt the free flow of information, "undermining healthy governance and rule of law." The group released State Secrets: China's Legal Labyrinth [website; press release], an extensive 280 page report that includes English translations of many laws the group says China uses to chill freedom of expression and freedom of the media. China's 1988 "Law on the Protection of State Secrets" allows the National State Secrets Bureau full power to declare anything a state secret [Amnesty International backgrounder].

HRIC also said that the state secrets laws are dangerous to people living outside China, claiming China has used the laws to forbid media coverage of infectious disease outbreaks or casualty tolls from natural disasters, which HRIC argues stymies international reaction to such events, potentially costing lives. China has rejected the criticism [press conference transcript, in Chinese], saying that no country can be completely open and transparent and that Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of speech. AP has more.

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