Photographer: Mario Proenca/Bloomberg

China Broadens Campaign Against Terrorism With Sweeping New Law

  • First anti-terror law lets PLA take part in operations abroad
  • Legislation elevates terrorism as national security priority

China’s first anti-terrorism law gives a sweeping definition of the crime, authorizes the People’s Liberation Army to take part in counter-terror operations abroad and elevates terrorism as a national security priority.

The law, approved by the top legislature on Sunday and effective from Jan. 1, requires technology companies to assist the authorities with encryption keys -- an element that drew U.S. criticism when China was planning its measures.

Terrorism is any advocacy or activity that uses violence, sabotage or threat to: generate social panic; undermine public security; infringe on personal or property rights; or menace government organs or international organizations in order to further political, ideological or other goals, according to a text released by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The definition was “inspired” by the counter-terrorism convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the six-country regional grouping led by Russia and China, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee said last week.

While the new law dropped requirements in earlier drafts for technology companies to submit encryption codes and other sensitive data for pre-vetting, it indicates that firms will have to hand over that material if requested.

Domestic Threat

The nation faces domestic security threats, including from Muslim Uighur terrorists, and last month Islamic State announced its first execution of a Chinese hostage.

China’s security and law-enforcement authorities, including the departments of public security and state security, prosecutors, the courts, and the military, are “all obliged to fight against terrorism,” according to the law.

The nation’s top legislator Zhang Dejiang, the NPC chairman, described the law as an important part of “establishing systemic rules for national security,” according to Xinhua.

Local governments from the city level up will establish agencies to lead and direct counter-terrorism work, while those at county level can do so if necessary, according to the law. They’ll all be under the national anti-terrorism agency.

The PLA and the People’s Armed Police may carry out anti-terrorism operations abroad with the approval of the Central Military Commission, according to the law. Public security and national security authorities can send personnel overseas for counter-terrorism missions, with the approval of the State Council and agreements from concerned countries.

— With assistance by Ting Shi

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