CHINESE authorities have ordered all motor vehicles in Bayingol prefecture in far-western Xinjiang to be installed with mandatory satellite tracking devices, the latest tough anti-terror measure targeting the ethnically divided region. China has been stepping up already tight security in restive Xinjiang after a rise in violence in recent months.
Hundreds have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, mostly in unrest between the Muslim Uighur people, who call the region home, and the ethnic majority Han Chinese. Beijing blames the unrest on Islamist militants. “Cars are the main transportation means for terrorists, and are also a frequently chosen tool to carry out terrorist attacks,” the Bayingol traffic police said in a post on its official Weibo microblog account.
China’s legislature passed its first-ever anti-terrorism laws in an effort to address what officials say is a growing threat across the country. It makes it legal for the People’s Liberation Army to take part in counter-terrorism missions abroad, and new measures to create a new counterterrorism agency, provide sweeping powers to security forces including accessing encrypted user accounts. International terrorism has emerged in recent years as a direct threat to Chinese nationals living overseas. As China’s footprint becomes increasingly global its exposure to the risk of terror attacks has increased too.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and FIDH highlight the serious human rights risks and counter-productive nature of China’s new counter-terrorism law in a new report launched at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Tokyo, Japan. ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten said: “The sweeping measures introduced in the new law – which have alarmed governments globally – are focused less on preventing terror and protecting China’s citizens, and more on the elimination of dissent and enforcement of compliance to Communist Party policies.
China pursues a broad range of bilateral and multilateral efforts in support of its counterterrorism objectives. This includes the strengthening of cooperation through multilateral organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure. China also cooperates, including with the United States, on issues such as port security, trafficking in international materials, and money-laundering to help support the development of conditions in the
international environment that make it difficult for terrorism to thrive.
Both China and Pakistan are working towards deepening their Counter-terrorism cooperation.The “Friendship-2016” joint anti-terrorism training of the Chinese and Pakistani armies was held at Pakistani national anti-terrorism training center on October 18, 2016. This was the sixth “Friendship” joint anti-terrorism training between the special operations forces of China and Pakistan. Focused on “anti-terrorism combat by special operations units in mountains and urban residential areas”, the training was aimed at exchanging anti-terrorism skills and tactics and sharing experience in the building, training and real combat of the special operations forces.
Active Defence strategy for Counterterrorism operations abroad
Chinese Ministry of Defense issued its first policy document in two years, a white paper titled, “Chinese Military Strategy,” which stated that China faces more challenges in terms of national security and social stability. With the growth of China’s national interests, its national security is more vulnerable to international and regional turmoil, terrorism, piracy, serious natural disasters and epidemics, and the security of overseas interests concerning energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs), as well as institutions, personnel and assets abroad, has become an imminent issue.
Beijing has also expressed concern that Chinese militants are traveling to battlefields in Syria and in Iraq, where China has significant oil interests. There have been reports about close links between Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, with the Pakistan Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and setting up of training camps in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region.
China has vast energy interests, construction projects and mines in unstable parts of the world, including the Middle East and Africa. The strategic concept of active defense is the essence of the CPC’s military strategic thought, which boils down to: adherence to the unity of strategic defense and operational and tactical offense; adherence to the principles of defense, self-defense and post-emptive strike; and adherence to the stance that “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.”
China has already conducted many counterterrorism operations abroad including, sending gunboats down the Mekong River in cooperation with Thailand, Myanmar and Laos in 2011 to combat drug running in the Golden Triangle while its navy has conducted numerous anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa.
The new National intelligence center will be established to coordinate inter-departmental and trans-regional efforts on counter-terrorism intelligence and information. The new law heralds a larger long-term Chinese security influence on countries potentially far from China’s borders, said Christopher Yung, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington.
New law to target some of Country’s Ethnic Minorities
“In my opinion they’re using the pretext of what is occurring globally as efforts to increase their control over the domestic population,” James Leibold, senior lecturer in Chinese politics at Australia’s La Trobe University, told CNN. “China was using terrorism legislation to target some of the country’s ethnic minorities.”
The white paper also stated, “Taiwan independence” separatist forces and their activities are still the biggest threat to the peaceful development of Cross-Straits relations. Separatist forces for “East Turkistan independence” and “Tibet independence” have inflicted serious damage, particularly with escalating violent terrorist activities by “East Turkistan independence” forces.
China forces used flamethrower to hunt Xinjiang ‘terrorists’
Chinese security forces in the far western region of Xinjiang killed 28 “terrorists” from a group that carried out a deadly attack at a coal mine in September 2015. The PLA Daily said the special forces used flash grenades and tear gas to force the attackers out of hiding, but when those methods failed, a senior officer said: “Use the flamethrower”.
A flamethrower projects a stream of flammable liquid, rather than flame, which allows bouncing the stream off walls and ceilings to project the fire into blind and unseen spaces, such as inside bunkers . The flamethrower is a potent weapon with great psychological impact upon unprepared soldiers, inflicting a particularly horrific death. This has led to some calls for the weapon to be banned. Contemporary flamethrowers can incinerate a target some 50–80 meters (160–260 ft) from the gunner; moreover, an unignited stream of flammable liquid can be fired and afterwards ignited, possibly by a lamp or other flame inside the bunker.
New law to access encrypted user accounts
Under the new bill, telecom operators and internet service providers will provide technical support and assistance, including decryption, to police and national security authorities in the prevention and investigation of terrorist activities.
The government says that increased online activity by terrorists justifies the new requirements. “Not only in China, but also in many places internationally, growing numbers of terrorists are using the Internet to promote and incite terrorism, and are using the Internet to organize, plan and carry out terrorist acts,” another official, Li Shouwei, said Sunday. China had earlier launched a campaign to get rid of the Internet of audio and video materials that promote, propagate Jihad, terrorism and religious extremism and punishing website servers violating the rules.
But critics worry that it could be used to gain access to proprietary or personal information and may be used to muzzle critics. Internet censorship in China which is already considered extreme due to a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations. In accordance with these laws, more than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the government of China, which have been implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, companies, and organizations. The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals, such measures have attracted the derisive nickname “The Great Firewall of China.”
President Obama had raised his concerns over draft regulations with China’s President Xi Jinping, saying that the rules amounted to a dangerous backdoor to internet services. US companies are worried that the anti-terrorism law is designed to give a disadvantage to Western internet companies in China.
Article 15 states that any ISP “providing telecommunications or Internet service within the borders of the People’s Republic of China must locate its related servers and domestic user data within the borders of [China].” This is being seen as measure to enhance china’s cyber resilience, in response to Edward Snowden’s allegations of global U.S. government surveillance.
“Our assessment is such requirements do not affect companies’ normal business operations,” said Li Shouwei, a deputy director of the criminal law office of the National People’s Congress. “And there is no such issue of China using the requirement as a back door to violate companies’ intellectual property or, as you suggested, to violate citizens’ freedom of speech and religion,” Li said, responding to a reporter’s question
Muslim Uighur minority’s alienation & China’s Anti-Terrorism Campaign
In December 2016, five people were killed when attackers drove a vehicle into a government building, with police shooting dead the three perpetrators. Violence has continued to flare particularly in the more remote southern regions of Xinjiang, although accounts are difficult to verify independently and exiles and rights groups suspect incidents are underreported.
There has been a severe escalation of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang since October 2013. China’s government says it faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists in energy-rich Xinjiang, on the border of central Asia, where hundreds have died in violence in recent years.
In May 2014, China launched a one-year “offensive” campaign to crack down on terrorism intended to uncover terrorist networks and extremist groups. It entailed increased deployment of military and armed police personnel including surveillance drones. Xinjiang’s security budget is now estimated to total almost $1 billion per year.
The Uighur — who constitute around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang — have accused China of carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities. According to local Uyghur sources, more than 20 Uyghurs were killed and more than 70 were arrested under Chinese forces’ crackdown on Uyghur residents who were protesting against the extrajudicial use of lethal force since the beginning of the Holy Month Ramadan.
Xinjiang is the resource-rich homeland of China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and much of the violence stems from ethnic tensions generated through divisions between Uighur and Han Chinese communities divided by language barriers. Uighurs have become alienated due to cultural oppression, along with immigration by China’s Han ethnic majority, which they say has led to decades of discrimination and economic inequality.
Beijing says the government has helped improve living standards in Xinjiang and developed its economy. The other is the announcement of a new social and economic policy package, including promoting Chinese national “consciousness” among ethnic minorities, boosting employment with a “one household, one job” policy and promoting bilingualism in Xinjiang’s education policy.