The Seattle Times
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Originally published Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:26 PM
China said Tuesday that it is considering new legislation to better define terrorism and allow for the public listing of terrorist groups, in an effort to strengthen prosecution against domestic threats and bolster Beijing's role in international cooperation.
A proposal before the national legislature would provide more specific legal definitions for terrorists and terrorist acts based on Chinese and international precedents, making it easier to bring terrorism charges, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The proposal targets those using violence, sabotage or threats in hopes of intimidating or coercing governments or international organizations. Incitement, funding or providing other support would also be considered terrorism.
Terrorist groups would be publicly named and the legislation would strengthen existing rules on seizing their domestic assets.
"Current legislation lacks specific regulations defining terrorism, terrorist organizations and individual terrorists, affecting the fight against terrorism, control over terrorist assets and international anti-terrorism cooperation," Xinhua said, quoting deputy Public Security Minister Yang Huanning.
China says it faces an organized terrorist threat from radical Muslim groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, although critics say Chinese economic policies and strict rules over cultural and religious expression are creating anger and resentment among the region's traditional Turkic Uighur (WEE'-gur) ethnic group.
China has been accused of exploiting terrorism fears to justify crackdowns on legitimate dissent, and the U.S. has refused demands to hand over Uighurs captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan and held at Guantanamo Bay. While Beijing has at times accused Tibetan activists of plotting terrorism, opposition to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region has been mainly peaceful.
The proposed legislation is on track to eventually become a new anti-terrorism law, said Li Wei, a counterterrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank affiliated with the government's main intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security.
That would for the first time provide a comprehensive mechanism for specifically prosecuting terrorism, including defining such crimes and clarifying the roles of anti-terrorism bodies, as well as laying out procedures for seizing terrorist funds, Li said.
"How often it is used depends on how often such acts occur, but China will now have a law which deals specifically with terrorist crimes," he said.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that the ministry was following the drafting of the new law and that China was drawing from the experiences of other countries in dealing with terrorism.
"China will continue to deepen cooperation with regional countries and international organizations to step up contacts and coordination," Jiang said at a daily news briefing.
Most of the government's terrorist accusations focus on groups in Xinjiang, which has been on edge since nearly 200 people were killed in fighting between Uighurs and Han Chinese in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital. China accused overseas Uighur activists of orchestrating the violence, but provided no direct evidence.
Violence this year flared anew July 18, when a group of Uighurs stormed a police station in Hotan and took hostages, killing four. Then, on July 30 and 31, Uighurs in Kashgar hijacked a truck, set a restaurant on fire and stabbed people in the street.
Authorities said that 14 of the attackers were shot by police in Hotan, and that five assailants were killed in the violence in Kashgar.
China again blamed overseas activists for what it described as organized terrorist attacks, specifically Pakistan-based militants affiliated with al-Qaida. One group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, claimed one of the attackers in Hotan had previously visited one of its training camps.