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China’s anti-terrorism law criticized as rights-violation tool

An Weixing, head of the Public Security Ministry’s counter-terrorism division speaks at a news conference after China's parliament passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law in Beijing. (Photo courtesy: REUTERS)
An Weixing, head of the Public Security Ministry’s counter-terrorism division speaks at a news conference after China’s parliament passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law in Beijing. (Photo courtesy: REUTERS)

(TibetanReview.net, Dec29, 2015) – China whose definition of “terrorism” remains at odd with that of the free democratic world has on Dec 27 passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law. Western countries have expressed deep concern over the move not only because of worries that it could violate human rights such as freedom of speech, but because of the cyber provisions.

However, speaking after China’s rubber-stamp parliament passed the law, Li Shouwei, deputy head of the parliament’s criminal law division under the legislative affairs committee, has claimed China was simply doing what other Western nations had already been doing in asking technology firms to help fight terror. He has maintained that tech companies had nothing to fear in terms of having “backdoors” installed or losing intellectual property rights.

Reuters noted Dec 27 that officials in the US capital had argued that the law, combined with new draft banking and insurance rules and a slew of anti-trust investigations, amounted to unfair regulatory pressure targeting foreign companies.

China’s national security law adopted in Jul 2015 requires that all key network infrastructure and information systems should be “secure and controllable” by it.

In the area of fighting terrorism on the ground, An Weixing, head of the Public Security Ministry’s counter-terrorism division, has said China faced a serious threat from terrorists, especially “East Turkistan” forces, China’s general term for Islamist separatists it claims are operating in Xinjiang.

But rights groups believe the so-called terrorist movement is Xinjiang is simply a bogeyman created by China to justify its repressive policies in Xinjiang, the homeland of Uyghur Muslims who resent China’s takeover of their territory and resources and the demographic aggression. They doubt the existence of a cohesive militant group in Xinjiang and say the unrest mostly stems from anger among the region’s Muslim Uyghur people over China’s repressive policies.

The new law also restricts the right of media to report on details of terror attacks, including with a provision that media and social media cannot report on details of terror activities that might lead to imitation, nor show scenes that are “cruel and inhuman”.

China called the new legislation its first counter-terrorism law in the latest attempt to address terrorism at home and help maintain world security.

China sought to justify its new legislation in the context of the current terror situation across the world. Said China’s official Xinhua news agency Dec 27, “the new law comes at a delicate time for China and for the world at large – terror attacks in Paris, the bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt, and the brutal killings of hostages committed by the notorious Islamic State (IS) extremist group are alerting the world about an ever-growing threat of terrorism.”

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