Dangers of China’s counter-terrorism law for Tibetans and Uyghurs

Special report by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and FIDH

In a report launched today at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo, Japan, our organisations highlight the serious human rights risks and counter-productive nature of China’s new counter-terrorism law.

The report draws on ICT and FIDH’s analyses of China’s counter-terrorism strategy and legislation, as well as the findings of an international round-table held in June 2016. Experts at this roundtable detailed how the Chinese government has sought to legitimize its repressive measures by passing legislation that intensifies the Chinese Communist Party’s control over free expression and broadens the scope to suppress dissent in Tibet and Xinjiang.

ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten said: The sweeping measures introduced in the new law – which have alarmed governments globally – are focused less on preventing terror and protecting China’s citizens, and more on the elimination of dissent and enforcement of compliance to Communist Party policies. This is likely to heighten tensions and increase the risk of violence by shutting down other means of recourse, and it also undermines the legitimacy of genuine international counter-terror efforts. Peace and stability cannot be achieved through hyper-securitization, nor by labelling as a terrorist the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate the Dalai Lama, whose leadership has ensured that Tibetans do not turn to violence in response to oppression.

In Tibet, despite the absence of any violent insurgency, an aggressive ‘counter-terrorism’ drive has resulted in an expansion of militarization across the plateau. By conflating the expression of distinct religious and ethnic identities with ‘separatism’, and blurring distinctions between violent acts and peaceful dissent, the Chinese government is using counter-terrorism as a justification to crackdown on even mild expressions of religious identity and culture in Tibet and Xinjiang.

China’s intensifying national security strategy and its new counter-terrorism law will have severe consequences for freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and religion in China, which are already sharply curtailed under existing laws and policies, said FIDH’s Director of Operations, Marceau Sivieude. Punishing peaceful expression by qualifying any dissent as a threat to national security not only violates international human rights law, but risks increasing tensions and encouraging extremism by closing off all outlets for peaceful expression and dissent.

China has expressed an interest in cooperating on counter-terrorism initiatives with other countries and inter-governmental agencies, including with EUROPOL. This is an opportunity for governments and international organizations to challenge the risks and human rights violations of China’s new counter-terrorism law, and to insist on a review of the law and China’s overall counter-terrorism strategy. The report published today outlines how and why the law presents a risk to human rights and effective counter-terrorism, and how the Chinese authorities and the international community can address these challenges, in order to ensure that China’s counter-terrorism approach does not result in more violence.

Click here to read the full report: China’s new counter-terrorism law: Implications and Dangers for Tibetans and Uyghurs

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