China / Government

Lawmakers weigh China's draft anti-terrorism law

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-02-25 18:54

BEIJING - Chinese lawmakers began reviewing draft legislation for the country's first anti-terrorism law on Wednesday, to better counter terrorist activity while protecting citizens' rights.

The draft proposal, which comes weeks after fatal attacks in Paris, France, and Copenhagen, Denmark, is China's latest attempt to address terrorism at home and help maintain world security.

Explaining the draft at a bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), Su Zelin, deputy director with the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said in the wake of new developments in the world's war on terrorism, China is facing a "new situation" in terms of its legislative work.

The draft law, when passed, could strengthen China's counter-terrorism efforts, he said.

One notable change in Wednesday's text, tabled for a second reading this time, is an updated definition of the term "terrorism".

According to the new draft, terrorism is defined as "any speech or activity that, by means of violence, sabotage or threat, generates social panic, undermines public security, and menaces government organs and international organizations".

The definition of terrorism in an earlier draft, submitted in October, also included "thoughts" in addition to "speeches and activities", but these were deleted for the sake of accuracy and applicability.

In addition, the draft proposed better aerospace control in China to guard against potential drone attacks.

"Flight control, civil aviation and public security authorities [...] must enhance management of aerospace, aircraft and flight activities, and stay on high alert for terrorist activity against aircraft or those conducted via flight activities," the draft read.

It also sought to strike a balance between combating extremism and protecting people's rights.

In particular, security authorities' access to citizens' information via telecom and Internet technology now must undergo "strict approval procedures", and information obtained in accordance with the draft law could only be used for the purpose of counter-terrorism operations, the draft stressed.

Approval must also be obtained to inquire into, seal up, seize and freeze suspicious assets linked to terrorist activity, it read.

The new draft has come at a delicate time in China, as the country will mark the one-year anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Sunday.

Twenty-nine people were killed and scores more were injured by knife-wielding assailants at a train station in the province's capital city of Kunming on March 1, 2014.

China does not have anti-terrorism legislation at the moment, though related provisions are scattered 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 systematic law in the field has hampered China's fight against terrorism, with its efforts deemed not forceful enough.

A string of appalling attacks on civilians in recent years have made headlines in the country's newspapers.

An assault on a market in Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi on May 22 last year killed more than 30 people and injured 94 others, prompting a year-long campaign against terrorism.

Terrorist attacks have also spread to other parts of the country. Three people were killed and 39 other injured when a sports utility vehicle plowed into crowds near Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing on Oct 28, 2013. The suspects died at the scene.

The attacks have brought greater urgency to Chinese lawmakers' drafting of an anti-terrorism law. The first draft of the law was submitted for legislators' review in October.

The draft, which was later published online to solicit opinions, is targeted at boosting information sharing across government bodies and among the military, armed police and militia, and stipulated measures on Internet security, the examination of transport, dangerous materials, prevention of terrorism financing, and border controls.

In particular, it proposed the establishment of an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field.


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