BRIEFING: China's New Counter-Terrorism Law and Its Human Rights Implications for the Uyghur People

Armed Chinese police patrol near the exit of Urumqi's South Railway Station.

For immediate release
February 1, 2016 11am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is concerned a new Counter-Terrorism Law adopted by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on December 27, 2015, and effective as of January 1, 2016, is a mandate for the Chinese government to commit human rights violations against the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.

UHRP is concerned:

  • The broad and vague definitions of “terrorism” and “religious extremism” contained in the legislation are an attempt to criminalize peaceful expressions of religious belief and legitimize heavy-handed repression in East Turkestan in order to eradicate all Uyghur opposition, peaceful or otherwise, real or virtual.
  • The curbs placed on reporting of alleged “terror incidents” and on disseminating information on the Internet violate the right to free expression. In addition, the Chinese state’s efforts to silence all Uyghurs, journalists or citizen journalists alike, from reporting, talking, writing, uploading genuine photos or videos of all incidents the state labels as “terrorist” by accusing them of spreading “rumors” aims to consolidate the narrative that China faces a concerted terror threat in East Turkestan.
  • The lack of oversight on state security forces will not end the use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings in “counter-terror” operations. The law provides maximum authority for China’s security forces to conduct rights violations against the Uyghur population while reducing protection of the Uyghur people’s legitimate rights. In practice, China has provided immunity to its security forces to deal with Uyghur dissent and protest critical of repressive rule in East Turkestan.
  • The promulgation of mass education campaigns on “counter-terror” is intended to flush out peaceful Uyghur opponents to the government’s interpretation of “religious extremism.”

“The new Counter-Terrorism Law is a pathway to a fresh round of Uyghur human rights violations. The law will not ensure the security of the people of East Turkestan and will only increase tensions through the criminalization of legitimate activities. It will serve to further alienate and marginalize the Uyghurs. I fear the region is headed toward a descent into further repression. That the Chinese government is preparing for these human rights abuses to happen in an information void is even more disturbing,” said UHRP Director, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC.

Mr. Seytoff added: “When foreign governments express concern over human rights violations in East Turkestan, China justifies its repression as part of the global war on terror and condemns its critics for ‘double standards on terrorism,’ even though, as is evident in the new law, the Chinese definition and standard of terrorism fall far short of international standards.”

UHRP believes the vague definition of “terrorism” and restrictions placed on reporting “terror incidents” constitute the most serious problems with the Counter-Terrorism Law. Observers should apply a high degree of skepticism in any assessment of a transparent implementation of the new legislation in East Turkestan. China prevents and punishes commentary, domestic and foreign, critical of its repressive policies and “counter-terror” measures in the region. The cases of Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, Xinjiang Daily editor Zhao Xinwei and French reporter Ursula Gautier demonstrate Beijing’s zero tolerance for such questioning.

UHRP condemns terrorism and advocates for a peaceful realization of international human rights standards in East Turkestan. UHRP recognizes that some incidents occurring in East Turkestan and elsewhere appear to be premeditated attacks, but remains skeptical about overseas links and a coordinated Uyghur “terror threat.” Uyghurs are frequently the victims of political violence in China, including forms that are state-sanctioned. According to an investigation into incidents occurring between 2013-14, UHRP discovered Uyghurs were three times more likely than Han Chinese to be killed.

Please read the full briefing here: http://docs.uyghuramerican.org/pdf/BRIEFING-%20China's%20New%20Counter-Terrorism%20Law%20and%20Its%20Human%20Rights%20Implications%20for%20the%20Uyghur%20People.pdf