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By Associated Press

Chinese authorities have proposed a sweeping but vaguely worded Internet security law that would strengthen protection of private information, ban hacking activities and also allow authorities to restrict Internet access to maintain public order.

The National People's Congress, the country's highest legislative body, released the text of the proposed law on Wednesday. It said a legislative panel gave the proposal its first reading in June and that it is seeking public comment until Aug. 5.

China's government considers cybersecurity to be crucial to national security, and espouses the concept of Internet sovereignty, treating its portion of cyberspace as its territory.

The proposed law says Internet operators must take necessary steps to close security loopholes to prevent possible cyberattacks. It also criminalizes any hacking activity.

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The draft says Internet operators are obligated to protect users' personal data. It also requires that users register their real names to receive Internet service.

"China is faced with severe challenges in terms of cybersecurity, such as cybercrimes and breach of personal information," said Tang Lan of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "So the paramount concern of this law is security."