China’s draft anti-terror law high on privacy, human rights

In this March 2, 2014 photo, armed paramilitary policemen patrol near the Kunming Railway Station in Kunming, in western China's Yunnan Province after a knife attack that left dozens dead. China’s draft counterterrorism law has taken into account the knife attack the station and recent terror incidents across the world.  

China is drafting an ambitious counterterrorism law, which seeks to address concerns over privacy and human rights, without losing the sting to target international terror groups.

The draft law has taken into account the Charlie Hebdo terror incident in France, the Copenhagen strike, as well as the essence of the Global War on Terror led by the United States. Besides, the legislation has been sensitised by last year’s deadly >terror attack at Kunming station, in the country’s Yunnan Province, which left dozens dead, and scores injured. Without specifically referring to Edward Snowden — the whistleblower who revealed prevalence of pervasive surveillance in the United States — a Xinhua commentary points out that “global terrorism should not be a warrant for retreat on citizens’ rights, and China’s first Counter Terrorism Law sends a welcome signal in this regard.”

The draft advocates establishing mechanisms that would ensure that access to private phone and Internet records, go through a strict approval procedure. The information that is gathered should also be used solely for the purpose of counterterrorism and not otherwise. A similar approval must also be obtained to inquire into, seal up, seize or freeze assets.

The new law is being drafted at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping has been calling for firmly implanting the rule of law as the anchor for China’s national rejuvenation. Chinese state media has been reporting that the President has been advocating, “Four Comprehensives” — a moderately prosperous society, reform, rule of law, and Party discipline — as the blueprint for China’s future. “The ‘Four Comprehensives’ are tasks raised at Communist Party of China (CPC) meetings over the last two years, since Mr. Xi took office,” writes Global Times, a CPC affiliate.

Analysts point out that the draft law addresses two separate domains.

It challenges the western narrative on counterterrorism and human rights by pointing to a more rational Chinese alternative. Besides, it hopes to shore up CPC’s legitimacy, especially among China’s cyber connected youth. Mr. Xi is well aware of the dangers of a widening legitimacy gap in his country. “Winning or losing public support is an issue that concerns the CPC’s survival or extinction,” the President had said in 2013 during the start of his frugality campaign. Referring to the downside of China’s dizzying economic

growth, Wang Yukai, vice-president of a Beijing based think-tank was quoted as saying that “the fact that the Communist Party of China’s legitimacy to govern needs repairing due to damage inflicted by corruption has been hidden behind fast growth”.

Despite their surprising focus on safeguarding individual rights, the Chinese are also incorporating hard provisions that tackle modern terror threats, including those posed by drones. The draft is therefore asking “those departments responsible for airspace control, civil aviation and public security to tighten their management of airspace and aircraft, as well as aviation-related activities”.

The emerging legislation also proposed setting up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering centre.

“Counter terrorism and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals. A balance can be struck between combating extremism and upholding rights,” observes the Xinhua commentary.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 7:06:52 PM |

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