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HRW: China's proposed counterterrorism law facilitates human rights abuses

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday criticized [press release] China's proposed new counterterrorism legislation [text, in Chinese] as a "recipe for abuses." The Chinese government maintains that their draft law conforms to UN resolutions and that it allows for human rights to be "respected and guaranteed." HRW, however, notes various areas of concern in the document. The draft defines terrorism as "thought, speech, or behavior" that attempt to "influence national policy-making," "subvert state power," or "split the state." According to HRW, this broad application of terrorism would allow the government to take action against seemingly innocuous actions, such as requesting a policy change. They are also concerned with the vagueness in the nebulous powers awarded to the new coordinating body against counterterrorism which state only that they possess "all powers" necessary to carry out their mission, without any due process protections given to potential detainees. HRW also contends that the law would create complete and total surveillance of everyday life in order to detect terrorism and would allow law enforcement greater surveillance and arbitrary coercive powers over an individual's personal freedoms, without legal recourse. There is also concern that the law will be used to target elements of society seen undesirable by the Chinese government, such as "religious extremist" groups and NGO's. Furthermore, HRW claims the law would allow China's counterterrorism operations to extend past China's borders, which would allow for violations of China's obligations to respect international human rights law.

The Chinese government has been accused of extreme action in order to eliminate perceived threats against its administration. In the past year the government has executed eight people for terrorism and separatist related crimes, as well as sentencing [JURIST reports] 12 to death for attacks on police and government offices. In early November China's Congress passed [JURIST report] a counter-espionage law in order to increase national security. The regulations against NGO's in the current proposed legislation were preceded by a proposal [JURIST report] made in late December that would require registration by the organizations in order to continue operations in China. Just days after, the government then announced that they would create a list [JURIST report] of approved religious venues in order to expose illegal religious activities.

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