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China’s Anti-Terrorism Law Is Nothing to Worry About

Mar 25 , 2015
  • Fu Xiaoqiang

    Director, Institute of Security and Arms Control, CICIR

China is accelerating the formation of its anti-terrorism law both to facilitate the fight against terrorism at home and to complete its rule of law framework. But some American politicians and firms have raised doubts about the purpose of China’s anti-terror legislation, and even requesting China to seek advice from other countries. There is actually no need to be so suspicious about such a legislative move in China.

First, the Chinese government needs to make an anti-terror law to serve its prevention of and fight against terrorism. In step with the changes in international terrorism as new, transnational terrorist activities emerge and spread, China faces increasingly serious terrorist threats at home. In the March 1 terrorist onslaught in Kunming last year, terrorists indiscriminately attacked innocent civilians at a crowded railway station. It was a bloody reminder that terrorist activities had permeated the country’s hinterlands, becoming a clear and present threat to national security and social stability. In Xinjiang, terrorist attacks have been frequent, and the increasing involvement of explosives in attacks there has resulted in massive casualties. In addition, “Eastern Turkistan Movement” terrorists are not only sympathetic for, but also taking part in the terrorist undertakings of ISIS. About 300 such extremists and terrorists from Xinjiang have covertly snuck out of the country to join the ISIS jihad via Southeast Asia. In the face of the changes in terrorist threats at home, there have been louder calls for quickening the pace of legislation on terrorism, and cracking down on terrorism in accordance with law. The Chinese government is only responding to such calls and the changing conditions at home.

Second, the idea to draft an anti-terror law itself is based on international legislative experiences and conventional practices in the fight against terrorism. It is aimed at providing an effective legal tool for the prevention of and fight against terrorist activities, institutionalizing the country’s anti-terror mechanisms, reasonably distributing anti-terror resources, and solving specific problems in anti-terror operations that call for coordination. It is intended to designate agencies responsible for anti-terror activities and their specific responsibilities, define obligations of the state, society, enterprises and individual citizens, and solve problems regarding intelligence, terrorist fund-raising, cyber terrorist threats, and international anti-terror cooperation. In fact, all major countries in the world have made anti-terror laws, and are coping with the terrorist threats in their face according to their own national conditions to preserve national security. National security brooks no compromise or bargaining. It is ridiculous to ask any country to listen to others in addressing its own national security concerns and terrorist threats in its face. The United States didn’t consult any other country before drafting the USA PATRIOT Act post-9/11.

Third, China’s anti-terror law is based solely on its security needs, and has nothing to do with “trade protectionism.” In the face of national security and the needs of anti-terror operations, neither citizens nor enterprises at home should compromise national interests for those of their own. The same applies to overseas companies operating in China. Nor will the United Sates offer immunity to any foreign firms operating on its soil. The United States’ main concerns are that the proposed Chinese law may require telecommunications operators, Internet service providers to preinstall technical interfaces in system design, construction and operation, and subject their encryption schemes to the authorities for examination. They are also concerned that if relevant equipment and user data remain within the Chinese territory, they will not be allowed to provide service in China. These are actually universal practices in the United States and some other countries. They don’t affect the legitimate interests of Internet companies. The United States leads the world in both telecommunications and Internet technologies. U.S. national security authorities have similar stipulations in anti-terror practices at home. They should not take advantage of their own technological superiority to impose double standards on others. Foreign firms operating in China must follow Chinese laws. They should absolutely not expect any ultra national treatment, or extra-territoriality. They would never be allowed to leave “backdoors” that endanger Chinese national security.

China has embarked on the road of an all-round fight against terrorism, and is actively pursuing rule of law. It will continue to borrow successful experiences from the United States and other countries. It may also compile a national anti-terror strategy, so as to meet the challenges of terrorism and efficiently safeguard national security.

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