The New Implementation Guidelines for the Counter-Terrorism Law in East Turkestan Will Reinforce Government’s Curbs on Human Rights

Per, 09/29/2016 - 21:48 -- Kanat
Policemen with riot gear stand guard behind a barricade near the site of an explosives attack in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on May 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of HRW / © 2014 Reuters

For immediate release
September 26, 2016 10:35 am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

In advance of China’s national day on October 1st, celebrating 67 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) wishes to draw attention to the P.R.C.’s continued human rights violations in East Turkestan.  The national and regional governments continue to create a legal framework for these violations, most recently with the passage of local implementation guidelines for its national Counter-Terrorism law. 

UHRP is concerned that the “Xinjiang Autonomous Region Implementing Measures of the Counter-Terrorism Law of the Peoples Republic of China[i]” passed by the regional government on July 29th and coming into force on August 1st constitutes a continuation of the government’s passage of legislation that will be used to infringe upon the human rights of Uyghurs in East Turkestan.

Specifically, UHRP is concerned that:

  • The regional implementation guidelines do nothing to resolve the issue of the counter-terrorism legislation’s broad and vague definition of terrorism.
  • The law describes “extremism,” specifically religious extremism, as the cause of terrorism but provide no definition of what constitutes religious extremism.  The guidelines forbid ‘instigating, encouraging or enticing a minor to participate in religious activities,” the wearing of clothing that “advocates extremism” and make specific reference to Islamic practice by forbidding “distortion of the concept of halal.”  UHRP is concerned that this will give license to the authorities to infringe upon peaceful religious practices.
  • The guidelines forbid “spreading rumors” and “distorting sensitive cases,” making or reproducing materials with “extremist content” and allows the authorities to restrict gatherings and the activities of various organizations, which may be used to control any objective reporting on incidents as well as constituting a restriction on the right to free expression.

UHRP continues to encourage observers to remain skeptical that the new guidelines will be implemented transparently and in a manner consistent with internationally agreed upon human rights standards.  UHRP remains firm in its condemnation of terrorism but remains skeptical of the Chinese government’s linking all incidents to a coordinated overseas Uyghur threat.

UHRP has now released a Chinese version of our briefing on the original national level Counter-Terrorism Law. The passage of the regional counter-terrorism law does nothing to assuage UHRP’s concerns about the national level law, namely that the definition of what constitutes terrorism has been left deliberately vague in order to give the authorities the ability to use terrorism prosecutions as a tool to maintain its power, not to protect the country’s citizens. Indeed the new details seem to underscore that the regulation is aimed at the Uyghur population and may be used to suppress legitimate religious and cultural expression and peaceful political dissent.

UHRP believes that these implementation guidelines for the national counter-terrorism law will to little to resolve the issues in East Turkestan.  Instead of addressing the issues of economic marginalization of the Uyghur population, the repression of free religious practice and use of the Uyghur language as well as the increasing atmosphere of suspicion towards Uyghurs, the guidelines clearly indicate that authorities intend to continue and increase the militarization of the region. The implementation guidelines suggest that authorities continue to regard East Turkestan as a “battlefield”.

For the fill briefing please see: