First anti-terror draft now under NPC scrutiny
The legislature will this week consider a thorny question: what is terrorism? The mainland's first anti-terrorism legislation will provide detailed definitions of terrorist acts, and designate an organisation to release terror watch lists.
The proposed Decision on Certain Questions Concerning Anti-Terrorism Work will be scrutinised this week at the bi-monthly meeting of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
The mainland's highest legislating body says the draft, not yet available to the public, is necessary as the fight against terrorism becomes increasingly complex.
'Current legislation lacks specific regulations defining terrorism, terrorist organisations and individual terrorists,' Deputy Public Security Minister Yang Huanning was quoted by Xinhua as saying. '[This affects] the fight against terrorism, control over terrorist assets and international anti-terrorism co-operation.'
According to Xinhua, the draft decision defines terrorism as activities that use violence, sabotage and threats to cause social panic, intimidation or coercion of state organs and international organisations, resulting in the injury and death of a large number of people, huge financial loss, damage to public facilities and serious damage to society.
Individuals who incite, sponsor or assist such activities will be considered terrorists - as will groups that organise, plan and implement them.
It defines terrorist organisations as crime syndicates set up for the purpose of carrying out such activities.
The legislation also states that a State Anti-Terrorism Work Leadership Organisation will lead the People's Armed Police, People's Liberation Army and other state bureaus in fighting terrorism. It will also be responsible for releasing terror watch lists, to be announced by the Ministry of Public Security.
The ministry will be given the power to freeze the assets of terror groups and terrorists. Financial institutions also have the duty to report and freeze such assets.
While existing laws provide the government with the power and means to combat terrorism, the decision will be the first legal document that sets up a legal framework for anti-terrorism efforts - though it falls short of an actual anti-terrorism law.
Yang, the deputy minister, told the standing committee on Monday that drafters of the proposed legislation had agreed 'the timing [was] not ripe' for a full-blown anti-terrorism law and that a decision was 'more appropriate for the tackling of urgent legal difficulties encountered in anti-terrorism work'.
Professor Li Wei , director of the Centre for Counterterrorism Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, said relying on law rather than administrative power was a global trend, and he hoped an anti-terrorism law would be passed.
'Making the law clearer will also put a stop to the scepticism mounted by many foreign media,' he said.
The Ministry of Public Security has previously released two lists of terrorists and terrorist organisations in 2003 and 2008 - all related to the independence movement led by ethnic Uygurs. Beijing has blamed the separatist movement there for a string of bombing and terrorist activities on the mainland in recent years.
But Uygur groups based overseas have argued that Beijing's accusations were an excuse to strengthen control over the restive province.