The Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China (which is not operative in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao) makes it a crime to release a state secret. Under the 1989 "Law on Guarding State Secrets," state secrets are defined as those that concern:
Major policy decisions on state affairs;
The building of national defence and in the activities of the armed forces;
Diplomatic activities and in activities related to foreign countries and those to be maintained as commitments to foreign countries;
National economic and social development;
Science and technology;
Activities for preserving state security and the investigation of criminal offences; and
Any other matters classified as "state secrets" by the national State Secrets Bureau.
Secrets can be classified into one of three categories:
Top secret (绝密): Defined as "vital state secrets whose disclosure would cause extremely serious harm to state security and national interests";
Highly secret (机密): Defined as "important state secrets whose disclosure would cause serious harm to state security and national interests"; and
Secret (秘密): Defined as "ordinary state secrets whose disclosure would cause harm to state security and national interests".