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Fox News
Fox News
1 Jul 2023


U.S. intelligence officials have issued a warning to American businesses and company employees operating in China as sweeping updates to the country's counter-espionage legislation go into effect on Saturday.

One lawmaker, however, warns the revision is a "direct attack" on American citizens and businesses.

"This is a direct attack on United States citizens and businesses," Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., said on "Fox & Friends Weekend" Saturday. 

"When they talk about the word espionage... and national security with no definition, that holds every American citizen that goes to China to do business or on vacation liable for just about anything the Communist Party of China wants to interpret and could arrest you and hold you in contempt."

US BUSINESSES OPERATING IN CHINA FACE NEW RISKS UNDER UPDATED PRC LAW, INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS SAY

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, issued a memo on Friday outlining the new risks for American businesses operating in China under a recently passed revision to a counter-espionage law in the PRC.

According to the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the law, which goes into effect on Saturday, expands "the definition of espionage from covering state secrets and intelligence to any documents, data, materials, or items related to national security interests, without defining terms."

The law also "broadens the scope of the PRC’s counterespionage law."

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Intelligence officials are warning that any "documents, data, materials, or items" could now be "considered relevant to PRC national security due to ambiguities in the law."

Additionally, the law also has the "potential to create legal risks or uncertainty for foreign companies, journalists, academics, and researchers."

"It doesn't define what those items are. So anything that they deem important, they can go after you personally," Mullin said. "That is a huge concern because it opens up all types of liability for anything that you might have said on social media inside the United States, anything that you might have said in private in your hotel room. China is always listening. That's what the Communist Party does. It says anything for any employee, any executive, anybody that was on your board, you could be personally held liable and they could arrest you when you're assigned inside China if they deem it a national security risk."

Mirriam-Grace MacIntyre, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told the Wall Street Journal that the law expands the definition of espionage without defining terms in a manner that's "deeply problematic for private sector companies."

Sen. Mullin argued that the move from China would not have happened under the Trump administration, pointing to alleged ties between the Biden family and the communist country.

"There's no way there's zero chance they would do this underneath President Trump," he said. 

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The counter-espionage law which was recently revised is part of a group of more laws which could give the Chinese government "legal grounds for accessing and controlling data held by U.S. firms in China."

The Oklahoma senator argued the revised law provides the U.S. with a "great opportunity" to bring manufacturing and businesses back to America. 

"The issue that we have is what is the United States going to do about this? This is a great opportunity. And CEOs are partially scared, board members are partially scared," Sen. Mullin said. "This is a great opportunity for the Biden administration, if they weren't so full of activists and actually be business friendly, to say, 'hey, look, we're going to open doors, we're going to streamline all the permits, allow you to bring your business right back to the United States.'"

"If we would take advantage of this new rule going into effect today, you would see an absolute swell of manufacturing coming back to the United States literally overnight."

FOX Business' Adam Sabes and Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

Madeline Coggins is a Digital Production Assistant on the Fox News flash team with Fox News Digital.