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The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, approved the country’s first counterterrorism law on Sunday. The new law, which will enter into force on Friday, proposes a national leading body to identify terrorist activities and personnel and coordinate nationwide anti-terrorist work. This will help fight terrorism at home and help maintain global security.
Yet, in the eyes of US State Department spokeswoman Gabrielle Price, the law “will do more harm than good against the threat of terrorism”, because it will “lead to greater restrictions on the exercise of freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion within China”, and “constrict US trade and investment in the country”.Such a statement is hardly a surprise, as Washington has long taken pride in its self-proclaimed role as a champion of freedom of speech, which has actually been restricted by legislation since the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001. The truth is the country’s law enforcement departments never compromise when it comes to lawfully fighting terrorism and silencing those seeking to incite terrorist acts, which is basically a consensus of most Americans.
Known as any activity that by means of violence, sabotage or threat, generates social panic, undermines public security, infringes on personal and property rights, and menaces government organs and international organizations, terrorism and its derivative ideology must be properly dealt with. Curbing the dissemination of extremist ideas is not violating basic human rights; instead, it is protecting the rights of the majority.
That Washington accused Beijing’s new counterterrorism law of infringing on freedom of speech, without referring to its own actions, is solid evidence of its double standard.
Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama expressed concern about a draft provision in China’s anti-terrorism law that might force foreign information technology groups to provide the Chinese government with “back door” access to their products and other sensitive information.
In fact, the provision requires telecommunication companies and Internet service providers, both at home and abroad, to offer technical support, such as technical interfaces and decryption, for the departments of public security and national security to prevent and investigate terrorist activities.
This is totally reasonable and fair, because it is possible that extremists will use telecom platforms and the Internet to instigate, plan and organize crimes. Many countries, including the US, have made clear in their legislation the obligations of network operators and service providers to assist counterterrorism as needed.
The US Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is a case in point. The worldwide surveillance by the US National Security Agency and US intelligence agencies’ collusion with Internet firms, which was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, testifies to such obligations.
Likewise, China is fully entitled to legitimate anti-terrorism cooperation with all relevant enterprises, in order to safeguard social stability, which includes their lawful business activities. Therefore, the US should stop making wild accusations about China’s determination to eliminate terrorism – a common threat faced by all – for the sake of the concerted anti-terrorism cooperation.
This article first appeared in China Daily.