China’s top legislature on Sunday adopted the country’s first counter-terrorism law in the latest attempt to address terrorism at home and help maintain world security.
Lawmakers approved the legislation Sunday afternoon at the end of a week-long bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
At a press conference held on Sunday, An Weixing, an official with the public security ministry, said China is facing rising threats of terrorism.
“Terrorist attacks have caused heavy losses of people’s lives and properties, posing a serious threat to our security, stability, economic development and ethnic unity,” An said.
The new law, which will enter into force in January next year, will provide legal support to the country’s counter-terrorism activities as well as collaboration with the international society, he said.
The much anticipated couter-terrorism law proposed 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.
The term “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 to realize certain political and ideological purposes.
A statement from NPC Standing Committee earlier this week said 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.
A previous draft of the law, submitted in February, did not cover personal and property rights or political and ideological purposes.
“[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,” the approved bill read.
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 China’s top legislator Zhang Dejiang, the new law is an important part for establishing systemic rules for national security.
The law establishes basic principles for counter-terrorism work and strengthens measures of prevention, handling, punishment as well as international cooperation, he said.
Under the new bill, telecom operators and internet service providers are required to provide technical support and assistance, including decryption, to police and national security authorities in prevention and investigation of terrorist activities.
They should also prevent dissemination of information on terrorism and extremism.
Li Shouwei of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee legislative affairs commission, said the rule accorded with the actual work needed to fight terrorism and was basically the same as other major countries.
“The clause reflects lessons China has learned from other countries and is a result of wide solicitation of public opinion,” he added.
“(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,” Li said.
China’s national security law adopted in July also requires Internet and information technology, infrastructure, information systems and data in key sectors to be “secure and controllable”.
Before Sunday’s new bill, 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.
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 field had hampered China’s fight against terrorism, with measures deemed not forceful enough, analysts say.
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.
Terrorist attacks have brought greater urgency for a counter-terrorism law. The first draft of the law was submitted for review in October 2014 and the second draft in February.
In a separate clause, Sunday’s new bill allows police forces, when facing violent attackers with guns or knives, use weapons directly in emergency circumstances.
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.
None, except news media with approval from counter-terrorism authorities in charge of information distribution, shall report on or disseminate the personal details of on-scene counter-terrorist workers, hostages or authorities’ response activities.
The clause was specifically revised to restrict the distribution of terrorism-related information by individual users on social media, earlier reports said.