A Chinese counter-terrorism official has pledged to resolutely prevent and crack down on terror and protect citizens’ rights in accordance with the country’s first counter-terrorism law.
The new law, adopted by China’s top legislature in December and took effect in January, includes stipulations on preventing, detecting, handling and punishing terrorism, said Liu Yuejin, counter-terrorism commissioner of the Ministry of Public Security.
Also, with provisions of the law about international cooperation, China will work with other countries in fighting terrorist forces abroad, to root out the sources of terror at home, Liu said.
The new law also encourages participation by the public and spells out protection of citizens’ personal and property rights.
Liu said the definition of the term “terrorism” in the law was inspired by a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) counter-terrorism convention, and the UN’s Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism.
According to the new law, “terrorism” is defined as any proposition or activity — that, by means of violence, sabotage or threat, generates social panic, undermines public security, infringes on personal and property rights, and menaces government organs and international organizations — with the aim of realizing political and ideological purposes.
Liu explained that the word “proposition” refers to systemic terrorism ideas that are already widespread. “It is to deter and punish the circulating ideas and will not criminalize any unuttered state of mind or unimplemented attempts.”
The law also defines extremism and penalties.
The official stressed that the law gives full attention to the balance between cracking down on terrorism and protecting citizens’ rights.
People or organizations identified as being involved in terrorism can ask for a review of such decision and any limit to personal and property rights must undergo strict scrutiny and approval, Liu said.
The law specifically prioritizes the protection of terror victims during emergency response operations, Liu noted.
Concerns on freedom of speech
Liu refuted the saying that the law infringes companies’ copyrights and the people’s freedom of speech on the Internet, adding cyberspace has become an important tool for terrorists to organize and implement attacks.
In recent cases, most terrorist conducted crimes under the influence of online materials promulgating terrorist thought, and some major cases were initiated and commanded by overseas terrorists through the Internet, Liu said.
“Strengthening cyber security administration, and apportioning the responsibility of Internet service providers (ISP) in anti-terrorist efforts are urgent matters,” Liu said.
The anti-terrorist law has taken into consideration of China’s practical conditions and drawn on the experience of other countries, stipulating that telecom operators and ISPs should provide technical interfaces and decryption technology to the authority.
“The assessment results showed that the clause has not affected businesses’ legal operations. Companies’ copyrights or people’s freedom of speech have not been infringed either,” added Liu.
Liu also denied that the law limits the freedom of the press.
Current anti-terror situation
While describing the country’s current anti-terrorism situation as “stable and under control,” Liu noted that terrorism is nonetheless permeating further in the country under the influence of international terrorists’ activities.
“Domestic and overseas ‘East Turkistan’ forces are stepping up their instigating efforts, and there’s a growing tendency for activities that are masterminded overseas, organized online and implemented within the country,” Liu said.
Liu stressed that “a very few persons with terrorist thinking” are still secretly planning violence and sabotage activities in the country, and violence and terror incidents still occurred occasionally in some parts of Xinjiang.
According to Liu, as the law took effect, various departments will innovate anti-terrorism methods, strengthen prevention of and crackdown on violence and terrorism activities while enhancing international cooperation in fighting terrorism.
Liu said that previous incidents in the country were mostly conducted through knife and axe attacks, vehicle crashes, arson and bombs, and, in some cases, the offenders have prepared for a long time and were able to escape fast after attacking.
Liu noted that some attackers followed instructions from overseas terrorism forces, and some others even organized new groups in a bid to launch fresh attacks while themselves staying off the grid.
In response, Liu continued, police have been making huge efforts to build an anti-terror intel system and strengthen supervision over key people, materials and venues, with the goal to prevent such incidents from the sources.
According to Liu, Chinese police have busted a “batch” of groups and effectively cracked down on “East Turkistan” terrorism with the help of neighboring countries.