By S. M. Hali
Plagued by challenges of terrorism, China, which has been studying various aspects of this multi-faceted affliction, has finally adopted an all encompassing anti terrorist law. The new law is historic in nature, since it is the first formal law espoused for implementation by China after its specialists on seeking recourse to combat the scourge of terrorism have been proposing different solutions.
China’s top legislature on December 27, 2015, at the end of a week-long bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, adopted the country’s first counter-terrorism law in the latest attempt to address terrorism at home and help maintain world security.
China did not have an anti-terrorism legislation, though related provisions feature in various NPC Standing Committee decisions, as well as the Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law and Emergency Response Law contained clauses pertaining to it. The NPC’s standing committee passed a decision to improve anti-terrorism work in October 2011, but it was never made into law.
The lack of a systematic law in this vital field hampered China’s fight against terrorism, with measures deemed not forceful enough. In one of most deadly cases, twenty-nine people were killed and scores more injured by knife-wielding assailants at a train station in Yunnan’s capital city, Kunming, on March 1, 2014.
The first draft of the law was submitted for review in October 2014 and the second draft in February but these did not cover personal and property rights or political and ideological purposes.
At the beginning of the NPC conference last week, which met to deliberate on the proposals, it was announced that the new definition had been inspired by a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) counter-terrorism convention, and the UN’s Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism.
The document elaborating the law starts with defining the term “terrorism” 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 to realize certain political and ideological purposes.
The historic new law, which will enter into force in January 2016, will provide legal support to the country’s counter-terrorism activities as well as collaboration with the international society.
The much anticipated counter-terrorism law proposes a national leading organ for counter-terrorism work, which will be in charge of identifying terrorist activities and personnel, and coordinate nationwide anti-terrorist work.
The state will provide necessary financial support for key regions listed in the country’s counter-terrorist plan, whereas professional anti-terrorist forces will be established by public security, national security authorities as well as armed forces.
A national intelligence center will be established to coordinate inter-departmental and trans-regional efforts on counter-terrorism intelligence and information.
Directly following the adoption of the law, China’s top legislator Zhang Dejiang, in a Press Conference elaborated that the new law is an important part for establishing systemic rules for national security. He elucidated that the law establishes basic principles for counter-terrorism work and strengthens measures of prevention, handling, punishment as well as international cooperation.
A remarkable aspect of the new bill is communication and dissemination of terror attacks. Telecom operators and internet service providers are now required to provide technical support and assistance, including decryption, to police and national security authorities in prevention and investigation of terrorist activities.
Since it has been observed that irresponsible coverage of the terror attacks, sometimes leads to copycat assaults while at times the perpetrators of the heinous crime are glorified by a certain section of the media, encouraging the spread of terrorism, media sources including the social media has been asked to desist from the dissemination of information on terrorism and extremism, except by central sources. In the rare reality of a terrorist attack, no institutions or individuals shall fabricate and disseminate information on forged terrorist incidents, report on or disseminate details of terrorist activities that might lead to imitation, nor publish scenes of cruelty and inhumanity in terrorist activities, the new law reads.
Unfortunately, some international critics are ready to pounce on any aspect of law, introduced by China, citing human rights being curbed. They fail to take cognizance of China’s special circumstances, the challenges it is facing and what are the practices in their own countries, especially the US, which was constrained to take steps to ensure that a dastardly crime like the 9/11 gory episode is never repeated.
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 Islamic State (IS) extremist group are alerting the world about an ever-growing threat of terrorism.
According to Li Shouwei of the NPC’s Standing Committee legislative affairs commission, while talking to the media stated that the rule accorded with the actual work needed to fight terrorism and was basically the same as other major countries. He explained that the clause regarding information reflects lessons China has learned from other countries and is a result of wide solicitation of public opinion. It will not affect companies’ normal business nor install backdoors to infringe intellectual property rights, or citizens’ freedom of speech on the internet and their religious freedom.
The approved bill clearly states that China opposes all extremism that seeks to instigate hatred, incite discrimination and advocate violence by distorting religious doctrines and other means, and acts to eradicate the ideological basis for terrorism.
Indeed, 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 slaughter of hostages committed by Islamic State (IS) extremist group are alerting the world about an ever-growing threat of terrorism.
China’s effort to evolve a compound and objective legislation to enable it to meet the global and regional threat from the bane of terrorism must be appreciated rather than criticized.
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The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily