News / Asia

    Amid Controversy, China Passes Anti-Terrorism Law  

    People walk past an armed Chinese paramilitary policeman standing guard in the capital city's popular shopping and nightlife area of Sanlitun in Beijing, Dec. 27, 2015.
    People walk past an armed Chinese paramilitary policeman standing guard in the capital city's popular shopping and nightlife area of Sanlitun in Beijing, Dec. 27, 2015.

    China’s top legislature passed the nation’s first anti-terrorism law Sunday, which expands the government’s ability to force foreign technology firms to comply with government investigations and could further erode individual rights. 

    Chinese authorities say the measures will expand abilities to fight terrorism at home and overseas while ensuring protections for individuals and businesses. Beijing insists the law, which goes into effect in January, is necessary and in line with international norms. 

    Critics of the law when it was drafted included human rights groups and U.S. authorities who said it was overly broad and may threaten freedom of expression and religion as well as intellectual property rights.

    Broader powers for Beijing

    Chinese officials insist they have struck a balance between heightened measures to battle terrorism and the protection of human rights as well as business interests. 

    Li Shouwei of the legislature’s criminal law office told a media briefing on Sunday that it will not affect the normal business operations of companies operating in China.

    "We do not use the law to set up 'back doors' to violate the intellectual property rights of companies, or to undermine free speech on the Internet and people's religious beliefs."

    Critics have argued the opposite, saying that it requires companies to help Chinese authorities decrypt data for counter-terrorism efforts.  

    Many have questioned why authorities in China, who already possess broad latitude to investigate and detain those suspected of crimes, need expanded powers. Chinese officials say they are dealing with an increase in terrorism. 

    More curbs on media
     
    But the country’s own definition of terrorism is seen by many as overtly political. 

    China’s foreign affairs ministry on Saturday, decided to expel French reporter Ursula Gauthier for a story she wrote about ethnic violence in Xinjiang, western China, for the French Weekly L’Obs.

    French journalist Ursula Gauthier, a reporter for the French news magazine L'Obs, holds a statement criticizing her from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as she sits at her desk in her apartment in Beijing, Dec. 26, 2015.
    French journalist Ursula Gauthier, a reporter for the French news magazine L'Obs, holds a statement criticizing her from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as she sits at her desk in her apartment in Beijing, Dec. 26, 2015.

    In her article, dated November 18, Gauthier argued that a series of attacks, carried out by members of the Muslim Uighur minority, were a result of China’s own hard-handed policies toward the Uighurs — and not, as the government argues, purely terrorism. The government said it considered that view sympathetic to terrorism, and declined to renew her journalist visa.   

    Calling the ministry’s move to expel her “absurd,” Gauthier said that the new law will no doubt further suppress free speech in China, which has already been stifled.

    “It’s a very wide-reaching law and the part which interests us journalists is that anything that you say or write, which seems to be encouraging terrorism [in China’s eyes], would be illegal,” said the journalist, who will be forced to leave China after her visa expires on December 31.

    China’s Xinhua news agency Monday said the new anti-terrorism law will impose additional restrictions on media reporting on domestic terrorism, although it did not give specifics. 

    Human rights groups have long expressed fears that the law will provide a legal footing for Chinese authorities to further tighten censorship or jail extremists of social movements.

    It also allows the People’s Liberation Army to take part in counter-terrorism operations overseas, which are approved by its own Central Military Commission and the countries involved.  
     
    Implications for foreign companies
     
    The law also gives the state broader access to sensitive commercial data. The law’s article 18 stipulates that “telecom operators and internet service providers shall provide technical interfaces, decryption and other technical support and assistance” to security agencies, which are pursuing terrorist activities."

    That will add pains to tech companies operating in China, and could have an impact on Chinese companies trying to enter foreign markets. 

    Kitty Fok, managing director of market intelligence firm IDC China, said the law means many companies will now have to seek Chinese partners in order to comply with the new regulations without leaving the country.

     “It is definitely difficult, but it is still such an important market for multinational companies that they can’t walk away,” Fok said.

    “So that’s why, in the last six months, we have seen a lot of joint ventures of different parts of partnership set up in China,” she added.

    Armed Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard in the capital city's popular shopping and tourist area of Wangfujing in Beijing, Dec. 27, 2015.
    Armed Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard in the capital city's popular shopping and tourist area of Wangfujing in Beijing, Dec. 27, 2015.

    Western technology companies have already clashed with authorities in Britain and the United States over providing greater access to encrypted communications of users. Law enforcement officials have argued that tough encryption hinders their ability to catch terrorists. The companies say any back-door methods to weaken encryption will also be exploited by hackers, making all communications more vulnerable. 

    Xiong Zhiyong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University who specializes Sino-U.S. relations, argued that more time should be given to see how China enforces the law. 

    “The law itself is incontestable. But while enforcing the law, the key is whether it will be wrongly applied in areas it shouldn’t be applied to the extent that it overreaches its scope,” Xiong said.

    The counterterrorism law is just the latest expansion of Chinese authorities powers under President Xi Jinping. Under President Xi, Chinese officials have exercised greater control over the economy, cracked down on lawyers championing individual rights, and increased a security crackdown in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora