Human Rights Watch warns that China’s long-awaited counter-terrorism law could legitimize and facilitate rights abuses:
“China has seen appalling attacks on people, and the government has a duty to respond and protect the population,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “But in its present form this law is little more than a license to commit human rights abuses. The draft needs to be completely overhauled and brought in line with international legal standards.”
[…] The draft counterterrorism law states that “counterterrorism work shall be conducted in accordance with the law” and that “human rights shall be respected and guaranteed” (art. 6). But the 106-article draft makes clear the government’s intent to establish a counterterrorism structure with enormous discretionary powers, define terrorism and terrorist activities so broadly as to easily include peaceful dissent or criticism of the government or the Communist Party’s ethnic and religious policies, and set up a total digital surveillance architecture subject to no legal or legislative control.
[…] Over the past three years hundreds of people have been killed by law enforcement personnel in what the authorities claimed were counterterrorism operations, raising serious concerns about regular disproportionate use of force, especially since China systematically prevents independent monitoring of the region. This situation makes it impossible to assess the veracity of general and specific claims by the Chinese government of terrorist incidents or threats. [Source]
Western skepticism about Chinese authorities’ use of the “terrorist” label has fueled both official and public indignation in China, most recently following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris this month. HRW’s specific concerns about the draft law include vaguely outlined definitions and powers, and the inclusion of regulations on foreign funding of NGOs. China has already responded to attacks by arming more police, which has produced a series of accidental or disputed shootings.