On the Conflict and Balance Between Anti-terrorism and Protection of Human Rights
April 07,2020   By:CSHRS
On the Conflict and Balance Between Anti-terrorism and Protection of Human Rights
DING Shouqing* & GU Liyan**
Abstract: With the increasingly serious global terrorism situation, all countries have continuously revised their anti-terrorism laws and related criminal laws, adopting legislation to restrict and derogate civil liberties, increased the punishment for terrorists, and adopted corresponding anti-terrorism measures to increase monitoring of suspicious persons. In this context, conflicts and contradictions in human rights protection and the fight against terrorism often arise. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is at the forefront of China’s anti-terrorism efforts. Facing the special situation of dealing simultaneously with the slowdown in economic growth, making difficult structural adjustments, and absorbing the effects of the previous economic stimulus policies, since 2014, the local government of Xinjiang has adopted a combination of measures on anti-terrorism and de-extremism work and achieved significant results under the correct guidance of the strategy of governance in Xinjiang proposed by the central government. The most important consideration of anti-terrorism lies in the analysis Chinese and Western human rights values, coordinate and balance the relationship between anti-terrorism and human rights protection within the existing legal framework.
Keywords: terrorism   Xinjiang governance   human rights protection
Terrorism has become a malignant tumor that threatens the international commu-nity, seriously affecting and undermining the world’s peace and security. For example, although the international extremist and terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group have lost ground, their extremist ideology has spread to countries all over the world. Part of their residual forces hide in the Syrian desert or among the Syrian-Islamic people and some have transferred to Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, North Caucasus and Africa; corresponding strongholds or bases have been established in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and North Africa. The al-Qaeda terrorist organization has also revived. Its organizational strength and scope of control have continued to grow and expand, and it has the intention of consolidating with Islamic State group. In addition, various new extreme forces, such as Neo-Nazism, Neo-Hasidism and right-wing extremism, have emerged. All of these have made the international anti-terrorism situation more severe and complicated.
After more than two decades of research on contemporary terrorism and the practice of anti-terrorism policies, a consensus has basically been formed in the international community on the general path by which individuals become terrorists: contact with extremism, acceptance of extremist ideas, formation of an extreme consciousness, and then implementation of terrorist actions. The development of contemporary international terrorism has proved that extremism is the ideological basis of terrorism. With the global penetration of extremism and the increasingly complex and serious situation of international anti-terrorism, it has become a consensus among all countries to strengthen domestic anti-extremism actions, improve anti-terrorism legislation and strengthen international anti-terrorism cooperation. A series of anti-terrorism cooperation agreements or resolutions have been formed among countries, regions and under the framework of international organizations such as the United Nations. It should be noted that in view of the serious harm that terrorism can do and its transnational and networked characteristics, on the one hand, surveillance, monitoring, search, and detainment have become commonly used means to counter terrorism. However, such anti-terrorism measures and means will inevitably affect personal privacy and freedoms. The values and interests of anti-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights have different features and emphases, so there are bound to be conflicts and contradictions between them. The specific conflicts of values appear as those of national interests, collective interests, and personal interests. How to coordinate and balance these conflicts within the existing legal framework is a realistic problem faced by every country in the international community.
I. Violent and Terrorist Crimes Seriously Violate Human Rights
Since 2019, large-scale terrorist attacks have taken place in many countries in succession, highlighting the worsening trend of the global terrorism situation: on January 27, an explosion in a church in Sulu located in the southwestern Philippines killed at least 27 people and injured 77 people; on February 14, a terrorist attack on the Central Reserve Police Force of India in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 42 police force personnel; on March 15, 50 people were killed in a mosque shooting accident in New Zealand; on April 21, eight serial explosions occurred in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, killing more than 200 people.1 Terrorist activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan are ceaseless, and small-scale terrorist activities frequently occur. From May 5 to June 2, 2019, there were hundreds of extreme violent incidents in terrorist attacks in the world.2
Just like any other country in the world, China too faces the threat of terrorism. The biggest terrorist threat faced by China comes from the violent terrorist activities carried out by “East Turkestan” terrorist forces led by the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement”. For a period of time, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China has been deeply affected by the accumulated influence of the ethnic separatist forces, religious extreme forces, and violent terrorist forces (hereinafter referred to as “three forces”). Terrorist attacks have occurred from time to time, which has brought great harm to the lives and property of people of all ethnic groups and to the social stability of Xinjiang, and caused great pain to the people of all ethnic groups. According to incomplete statistics, from 1990 to the end of 2016, the “three forces” have created thousands of violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang and other places, causing the deaths of hundreds of police officers and a large number of other people, as well as losses of property that cannot be estimated. For example, the February 5 rioting in Yining in 1997 resulted in seven deaths and 198 injuries, including ordinary people, police officers and the armed police, among which 64 people were seriously injured; more than 30 cars were destroyed, and two private houses were burned. The July 5 violence in Urumqi in 2009 caused 197 deaths and more than 1,700 injuries; 331 shops and 1,325 cars were smashed and burned, and many municipal public facilities were destroyed. The violent terrorist attack in Yecheng County on February 28, 2012 caused 15 deaths and 20 injuries. A terrorist attack in Lükqün on June 26, 2013, caused 24 deaths and 25 injuries. On October 28, 2013, a terrorist attack on the Jinshui Bridge in Beijing killed two people, including one foreign tourist, and caused more than 40 injuries. The March 1 terrorist attack on the railway station in Kunming in 2014 caused 31 deaths and 141 injuries. The bomb in the morning market in Urumqi Park on May 22, 2014 caused 39 deaths and 94 injuries. A violent terrorist incident in Shache on July 28, 2014, caused 37 deaths and 13 injuries, and 31 cars were smashed and burned.3
Follow-up research and analysis of the above cases shows that behind these outrageous terrorist activities, there were shadows of extremism, and the terrorists had been basically poisoned by religious extremist ideas before they carried out their terrorist attacks. The basic steps in violent terrorist activities in Xinjiang are as follows: participating in illegal religious activities, accepting extreme ideology, becoming extremists, and then carrying out terrorist activities. Religious extremist thoughts and views (such as “Jihadist can go to heaven by martyrdom”, etc.) quickly turn people who had simple religious beliefs into demons. Separatism is the root of extremism and terrorism. Extremism is the ideological basis of terrorism. Terrorism is the actual manifestation of separatism and extremism. All the bloody and cruel terrorist incidents in Xinjiang had the same nature of being anti-humanity, anti-civilization and anti-society. They seriously trampled on the basic human rights of people of all ethnic groups, seriously undermined social stability and seriously impeded the development of Xinjiang’s society and economy.
In order to maintain social stability and long-term peace and order in Xinjiang, eradicate the soil and conditions in which terrorism can establish roots and fully protect the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups, the local government of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has thoroughly implemented the central government’s strategy to govern Xinjiang, put in place a combination of anti-terrorism and safeguarding stability measures and taken “de-extremization” as an important measure for governing from the source and of preventive anti-terrorism work. Among them, the establishment of vocational education and training centers is a key measure. These training centers are vocational skills education and training centers with Chinese characteristics that Xinjiang has established in accordance with the law and objective reality of the region. The centers cultivate the trainees’ awareness of the rule of law and enhance their ability to distinguish right from wrong; the centers also improve the trainees’ ability to master and use the national common language, and so improve their level of communication with the outside world, and lays the language foundation for their “going out” in the future; through the provision of vocational skills training, the centers help the trainees to master a livelihood skill and improve their employ-ability. At the same time, the centers start from the details of life, care for the trainees, help the trainees develop good habits of life and hygiene, and help the trainees abandon the bad habits of life, which makes the trainees undergo a fundamental change in psychology and mentality. Advocating modern civilized life is becoming popular. This kind of preventive and source-control anti-terrorism work has been done to fundamentally reduce and prevent terrorist crimes, and maximize the protection of the rights of subsistence and development of the people of all ethnic groups.
II. Chinese and Western Human Rights Values with Completely Dif-ferent Political Orientation
What are human rights? Throughout the world, since the September 11 attacks in the United States, in the face of increasing international terrorist activities, all countries in the world have upgraded their security inspections and investigation measures year by year, reinforced their border controls, and strengthened their anti-extremist social governance. These are necessary measures to reduce security risks and hidden dangers. They are unconventional means for special times that countries have adopted, China being no exception. However, the political system and ideology are fundamentally different between China and the Western countries, and human rights values in countries with different political systems are fundamentally different. China emphasizes the rights to existence and development, while the West upholds the supremacy of personal freedom.
The human rights values of Western developed capitalist countries emphasize that “individual human rights are more important than sovereignty”, and advocate po-litical freedom and civil rights. For example, the scope of human rights protection in the United States covers political freedom and civil rights defined by the law, and the country’s laws always consider that citizens’ economic and social rights are not with-in the scope of human rights. In fact, the essence of Western human rights is to serve capital, which has a clear political and practical nature. Once human rights endanger the rule of capital, Western countries disregard individual freedom and human rights.
Human rights even sometimes become an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and to scramble for resources. For example, the Afghan War and the Iraq War launched by the United States on the grounds of anti-terrorism plunged Afghanistan and Iraq into a vortex of turbulence and hardships. Meanwhile the implementation of the so-called Western democratic politics forced on Arab countries by the United States interfered in the internal affairs of these countries, causing civil strife in Libya and the civil war in Syria, etc. The people of these countries even have problems with their basic rights to subsistence, how can they speak of human rights?
The human rights strategy of the United States is ideologically aimed at implementing a strategy of political disintegration. The United States starts from the literary and cultural level, with contagious and shocking literary works, etc., to strengthen the consciousness that individual freedom and rights are sacred, and spreads the ideology that only individual life is valuable and meaningful and individual rights are the most sacred rights. This freedom-centered human rights value of “human rights are more important than sovereignty” has strengthened the consciousness that individual freedom and rights are sacred. The consequences of its dissemination in society have directly led to people’s indifference to the country and alienation from society and collectivity until it triggers social confrontation, turmoil, unrest, and even the collapse of a country’s regime.
While some western developed countries advocate and promote human rights abroad, their promotion of human rights at home is nevertheless restricted by the will of capital, that is, ideologies that conform to the ruling ideology are unrestricted, and those that do not conform are restricted and suppressed. For example, during the McCarthyism period, the US government forcibly intervened in the organization and activities of the Communist Party and strictly controlled the activities of the trade unions. As a result, progressives were persecuted and purged, the liberals were implicated, and many were monitored. In the single year of 1951, there were 624 organizations and 204 publications outlawed. The United States also introduced freedom-restricting laws, which reduced the freedom of faith and speech to hypocrisy, as under these laws such as the Pledge of Allegiance and the Subversive Activities Con-trol Act of 1950, all civil servants must pledge allegiance to the federal government.4 Not to mention racial discrimination and the massacre of Native Americans, which are among the most immoral records in the history of human rights in the United States. Since the end of the Cold War, more than 40 times has the United States resorted to military interventions, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the emergence of “human rights disasters” in many places.5 Cases in point are the PRISM scandal of 2013, the abuse of prisoners and war prisoners that has come to light from time to time, the drone strikes that kill innocent civilians,6 and the Trump administration’s racist Muslim Ban. These examples fully embody the United States’ double standards on human rights at home and abroad. As early as their establishment of historical materialism, Marx and Engels had already pointed out that the freedom advocated by the bourgeoisie was essentially the freedom to buy and sell labor, that equality was in essence the equivalent to the exchange of commodities, and that fraternity was in effect the mutual love and cooperation between the exploiting class and the exploited class.7 Marx believed that the bourgeois “human rights” in the West were “privileges” marked by class. Thus, the US idea of universal human rights is obviously political, the essence of which is to serve its global hegemony and global control strategy. The United States wields the issue of human rights as a strategic tool to attack and invade socialist countries as well as the many developing countries, stirring up the public’s dissatisfaction and distrust of the government to create conflicts, social chaos (e.g. Libya), or even collapse of the legal regime.
Values of human rights in contemporary China are formed under the guidance of Marxist human rights theory and based on the inheritance of excellent traditional Chinese culture. The core values of socialism are it is “people-oriented”, which emphasizes the “organic unity of individual and collective human rights”. Being “people-centered” is established as the core of socialist China’s human rights values. Looking after the people’s fundamental interests, protecting their lives and property, and serving them wholeheartedly are the fundamental tenets of the Communist Party of China and the fundamental stance of the socialism with Chinese characteristics. Human rights under socialism with Chinese characteristics include not only the civil and po-litical rights enjoyed by individuals in accordance with the law, but also the economic, social and cultural rights enjoyed in accordance with the law, among which the most basic and important are the rights to subsistence and development. Since its founding, the tenet and fundamental purpose of the CPC have been to seek the well-being of the people. Therefore, the realization of real human rights can only be achieved by the positive actions of the State, and by meeting the survival and developmental rights and interests of people in the economy, society and culture.
Life is the highest value of human rights, which is also the basic understanding of the international community on human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All men are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. These rights and freedoms can be divided into civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights”; Article 3 clearly states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, affirming the highest value of life. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are not only important supplements and refinements to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also the legalization of it. The three instruments of human rights constitute the International Bill of Human Rights and serve as general charter of the human rights cause of the international community. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources... In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”. It can be seen from the above provisions that all international instruments of human rights make a point of citizens' rights to life and subsis-tence as the most basic and important human rights.
From a global perspective, terrorist activities first infringe on innocent people’s rights to life and health, then undermine those to property and development. Therefore, China’s de-extremism policy, especially the establishment of the vocational education and training centers, is aimed at reducing and eliminating the threat of terrorism to people’s right to survival and development, help those who have been lured by extremist thought gain a correct outlook on the world, life, and human values, freeing them from extreme thoughts and at the same time helping them realize a harmonious and happy life. The United Sates while itself adopting a policy of hostility and exclusion towards Muslims, accuses China of repression, persecution, and abuse of human rights in its policy of helping and saving Muslims. It is highly probable that the ultimate purpose of the United States is to transfer the increasingly rising anti-US sentiment of the Islamic world into hatred and hostility towards China; its fundamental purpose is to stir up confusion and disturbance in China, spark a so-called color revolution in China, and hinder China’s development. The totally different political systems and pursuit of human rights values between China and the West determine that any anti-terrorist and de-polarizing policies and measures adopted by China will never conform to the “human rights” values of some Western developed countries.
III. The Fundamental Purpose of China’s De-extremism Policy
According to the famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiological needs rank at the bottom, followed by safety needs. That is to say, safety needs are the basic element of human survival and the foundation of higher-level needs. As mentioned above, due to the frequent and high incidence of violent and terrorist activities, Urumqi and other terrorism-stricken places were enveloped in the shadow of violence and terrorism, where people of all ethnic groups had a signifi-cantly lower sense of security and higher desire for security.
People are the fundamental force driving social and economic development. To realize, safeguard, and develop the fundamental interests of the people is the funda-mental purpose of China’s development, and to protect people’s security and interests is the CPC’s unremitting efforts and pursuit of values. President Xi Jinping’s holistic approach to national security for the new era, which upholds the principle of people’s security and puts people’s security first, embodies the CPC’s principle of serving the people wholeheartedly and its basic values of governance for the people. Adhering to the people-oriented principle and putting the safety and well-being of the people as the purpose of national security are a reflection of the value orientation of “benevolence and kindness” and the “people-oriented” ideology in traditional Chinese culture, as well as an organic combination of traditional Chinese thought of “people-orientation” and the historical concept of the masses of Marxism.
To strictly guard against and resolutely combat all acts of infiltration, subversion and sabotage, as well as violent and terrorist activities, ethnic separatist activities and religious extremist activities is an important part of China’s national security construction in the new era. It is the national responsibility and mission of the Chinese government to protect the life, health and property safety of people of all ethnic groups, as well as to safeguard their basic human rights. Creating a stable and harmonious social and ecological environment for the people is the goal of China’s national security and the most basic responsibility of the Party Committee and government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Therefore, the autonomous region’s Party committee and its government should implement the strategies in accordance with the provisions of relevant laws and regulations, continuing to step up efforts to combat violent and terrorist activities, and in the meanwhile emphasizing making efforts to explore de-extremism with Chinese characteristics as well as preventive anti-terrorism, so as to meet the people’s most basic needs for life safety. The establishment of the vocational education and training centers is a case in point.
However, the development and rise of China and the harmony and stability of Xinjiang are resented by Western developed countries led by the United States, who, after the Cold War, as the only superpower in the world, has always taken the issue of “human rights” as a weapon to contain and suppress China. The so-called ethnic, religious and human rights issues in Xinjiang to manipulate international public opinion are one of the focuses of its constant pressure on China, this is the perfect example of the US strategy of “suppressing China by the Xinjiang issue”, which reveals the duality of its values on human rights. Over the years, out of political interests and ideological needs, the hostile Western forces led by the United States have always been trying to “divide” and “Westernize” China under the pretext of issues of “human rights”, “ethnicity” and “religion”, with the “Xinjiang issue” as a breakthrough point. Especially since June 2018, some so-called experts, scholars and even government officials in the West have frequently criticized China for so-called Xinjiang human rights abuses by taking advantage of reviewing China’s human rights reports at the UN Human Rights Council. Moreover, the US vice-president even said in a speech that the vocational education and training program in Xinjiang was China’s “religious persecution” and “illegal imprisonment of Muslims”. To add fuel to the fire, some radical Western media and politicians have called China’s vocational education and training centers “concentration camps” and accused China of being a “human rights violator”. However, it seems that they turned a blind eye to the thousands of violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang, planned and carried out by the “three forces” inside and outside China since the 1990s, as well as the fact that a large number of innocent people of all ethnic groups have suffered casualties and heavy property losses.8
The fundamental purpose of China’s fight against terrorism and de-extremism is to protect the fundamental interests of the people. The establishment of the vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang is a preventive anti-terrorism measure to combat terrorism at the source in accordance with the law. It is also a practical action taken by China to implement the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy. The UN’s global anti-terrorism reports have repeatedly stressed that “education and employment are keys to eliminating terrorism”. The CPC central committee with Xi Jinping at its core deeply recognizes that religious extremism is the ideological basis for ethnic separatism and violent terrorism, thus only by improving the soil and environment where religious extremism grows, can terrorist activities be effectively curbed, reduced and prevented. To help those who are affected by extremism, the vocational education and training centers have been established in Xinjiang. Those affected by extremism, who have not yet committed crimes or whose crimes are so minor they are exempted from criminal punishment receive education and vocational training at the centers, which fully demonstrates the protection of citizens’ basic human rights in socialist China, and has proved to be effective. Under the leadership of Xinjiang’s autonomous government and its Party committee, as well as through the untiring efforts of the cadres and the masses, the social ecology in Xinjiang has seen marked improvement. Violent and terrorist activities have been effectively halted, and social positivity has been growing. As a result, there have been no violent and terrorist incidents for 31 consecutive months. The number of criminal and public security cases has dropped significantly, which has increased the sense of security of people of all ethnicity in the region.
IV. Conflict between Anti-terrorism and Human Rights Protection
Terrorism and extremism are far beyond being simply worldwide issues they are global challenges. Countries, while moving to crack down on terrorist activities, have fully realized that preventing and containing Islamic extremism is fundamental to eliminating terrorism. To this end, the United States, Canada, Russia and countries in Europe and Central Asia, are constantly putting forward new and upgraded national strategies against extremism and improved legislation or active social governance measures, so as to prevent and fight against the infiltration and spread of religious extremism.
Actually, even Europe and the United States that advocate “human rights out-weigh sovereignty” have restricted civil and political rights under the threat of terror-ism, actively using national strategies and policy measures year by year to further prevent and combat the spread of religious extremism and terrorism via online channels. In terms of such work, countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium all found best national strategies to fit local situations. For instance, the USA Patriot Act in 2001, now invalid, justified greater power of national security agencies to monitor and search citizens or other means, thus expanding the authority and scope of intelligence collection; the USA Freedom Act that replaces it merely transfers the monitoring of citizens’ communication from the intelligence department to telecommunications companies, namely, the government still has free access to the information. Furthermore, restrictions have been put in place to control religious influence on public affairs. Typically, states including Oregon, Pennsylvania and Nebraska passed legislation to ban public school teachers from wearing religious garb in the classrooms. More cases include a life-long ban on 100 Muslim teachers imposed by the Department for Education of the United Kingdom in April of 2015,9 the anti-terrorism priorities of Denmark to combat extremism and rad-icalism, restrictions by France and Germany on religiously radical people to leave the countries, and nationwide bans of religious signs and clothing in schools in countries such as France, Belgium and Germany, hence religion has been strictly restricted in public places. In addition, while making efforts to look for means of anti-extremism, measures made by Europe and the United States since 2005 targeted at stronger control through greater judicial authority as well as on civil rights and freedoms, including some special ones that have been normalized. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration promptly delimited a no-fly zone overhead after Boston Marathon bombing, and temporarily suspended all flights from and to Boston Logan International Airport, while conducting stricter subway security checks of personal belongings.
Obviously, freedom should be within legal boundaries, which distinguishes private space from public space. When it comes to the real society, anti-terrorism and human rights protection are complementary, which supports restricting human rights and freedom to counter terrorism and extremism. The counter-extremism policies and measures of Europe and the United States have placed too much dependence on Muslim communities and there has been insufficient research and analysis on the causes of individual radicalization, which have been crucial reasons why the policies and measures have failed. In other words, they put more focus on “potential places” not “potential individuals” and post-intervention instead of prior prevention.
There is no doubt that anti-terrorism and human rights protection are two different concepts, but actually complementary. As terrorism and extremism pose great threats to basic human rights, social security, public order and economic growth, only better social governance in addition to preventive anti-terrorism work and harsher measures towards terrorism can secure basic human rights and ensure improvements are made accordingly.
That frequent international terrorist attacks have occurred in Europe and the United States while the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has basically remained stable and prosperous serves as the best evidence of China’s impressive de-extremism work; furthermore, it is a powerful response to those fabricating smears against China. In fact, China’s de-extremism experiences can serve as reference for those countries suffering greatly from religious extremism.
V. Balancing Anti-Terrorism Actions and Human Rights Protection
Certainly, terrorism is the public enemy of mankind. Hence the derogation of human rights during anti-terrorism actions is clarified in laws, internationally and domestically, to avoid further personal injuries or property losses. Among various UN conventions, resolutions and other documents, terrorist crimes are defined as criminal acts that seriously endanger social security. Similarly, terrorist acts or activities are clearly defined as serious crimes that must be subject to severe criminal penalties in relevant national laws. For instance, the terms “terrorism and human rights” were first clearly stated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. This document reads “The acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations are activities aimed at the destruction of human rights. The international community should take the necessary steps to enhance cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism.”10 Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) clarifies specific conditions, precisely stated in Article 4 as “In time of public emer-gency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.”
In this context, the Chinese government and people have fully understood such a balance. More specifically, respect and protection of human rights is a vital principle of China’s Constitution and anti-terrorism laws. As of 2011, China has been part of 27 international conventions of human rights, 13 international anti-terrorism conventions within the United Nations’ framework, and many regional anti-terrorism ones.11 According to the Anti-terrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as “the Anti-terrorism Law”) issued in 2016, “infringement upon person-al and property rights” is the key to defining “terrorism”. Moreover, this law clearly stipulates the legislative purpose and principle of anti-terrorism as “safeguarding national security, public security and the security of people’s lives and property’, and “In anti-terrorism work, citizens’ freedom in religious belief and ethnic customs shall be respected, and any discriminatory deeds based on regions, ethnic groups, religions and other causes shall be prohibited.” As safeguarding national security and public security is the basic condition to enjoy and exercise rights and freedoms, the Anti-terrorism Law sets specific provisions to balance the relationship between anti-terrorism and human rights protection. Embodied in the whole law, the essence of human rights protection was clearly stated as “anti-terrorism work shall be conducted in accordance with the law by respecting and safeguarding human rights and protecting the lawful rights and interests of citizens and organizations.” So that anti-terrorism work has been entitled on a clear legal basis, following the principle of same emphasis on the protection of human rights, which is consistent with the Constitution and International Bill of Human Rights. Precisely, in Chapter II “Determination of Terrorist Organizations and Individuals”, a determined terrorist organization or individual that has any objection to the determination may file an application for review. In addition, Chapter IV “Intelligence Information” stipulates that materials obtained through technical anti-terrorism investigations shall not be used for other purposes, and the responsible subject who knows the business secrets and personal privacy shall have the obligation to keep secrets; in Chapter VI “Response and Handling”, when handling with terrorist events, persons whose personal safety is directly harmed or threatened by terrorist activities shall be protected first; Chapter VIII “Safeguard Measures” states that relevant units and persons shall have the right to claim compensations for the damage to their legitimate rights and interests caused by anti-terrorism activities; lastly, in Chapter IX “Legal Responsibilities”, determined terrorist organization or individual that has any objection to the determination may apply for administrative reconsideration or file administrative litigation according to law.
Within China’s context, de-extremism work refers to key measures taken by Xinjiang’s local government to improve social governance and to curb terrorism. Based on the regional situation of a wide range of extremism as well as the special period of simultaneously dealing with the slowdown in economic growth, making difficult structural adjustments, and absorbing the effects of previous economic stimulus policies, the Xinjiang government has exercised legislative power of autonomous minori-ty nationality area according to China’s Anti-terrorism Law, Legislation Law, Law on Regional National Autonomy, etc. As a result, the Measures of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Implementing the Anti-terrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China, and the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on De-Extremism were published, which clarified that local governments at the county level or above can set up vocational education and training centers. Such training centers safe-guard the participants’ rights to education, development and socio-economic power. Thus, a large number of people on the edge of terrorist crimes have gained a new life. Furthermore, this measure has also powered China’s anti-terrorism cause and human rights protection to a record high, and, at the same time, is in line with relevant provi-sions of the Charter of the United Nations and a series of international human rights conventions.
As mentioned above in the ICCPR, in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations, such as temporarily restricted freedom of assembly, procession or the person as well as criminal coercive measures against terrorist suspects and their property.12 All in all, national security absolutely outweighs individual freedom during anti-terrorism operations. So that special restrictions on personal freedom or public activities are reasonable. In this aspect, anti-terrorism and human rights protection are not contradictory but complementary. Effective anti-terrorism measures are conducive to the protection of lives and property of most people, and to the better and faster recovery of social public order along with social stability.
It should be noted, that anti-terrorism does not equate to neglecting the legitimate rights of suspects, defendants or criminals in terrorist or religious extremist crimes. Actually, most criminals engaged in terrorist or extreme religious crimes in Xinjiang mainly belong to ethnic minorities, basically members of the terrorist body East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), part of terrorist groups or firm religious extremists. In order to fully protect the rights of ethnic minorities to use their own languages and characters, Article 134 of China’s Constitution stipulates that “Citizens of all China’s nationalities have the right to use their native spoken and written languages in court proceedings. The people’s courts and people’s procuratorates should provide translation for any party to the court proceedings who is not familiar with the spoken or written languages commonly used in the locality. In an area where people of a minority nationality live in a concentrated community or where a number of nationalities live together, court hearings should be conducted in the language or languages commonly used in the locality; indictments, judgments, notices and other documents should be written, according to actual needs, in the language or languages commonly used in the locality.” In accordance with Article 9 of Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, “Citizens of all nationalities shall have the right to use their native spoken and written languages in court proceedings. The people’s courts, the people’s procuratorates and the public security organs shall provide translations for any party to the court proceedings who is not familiar with the spoken or written language commonly used in the locality. Where people of a minority nationality live in a concentrated community or where a number of nationalities live together in one area, court hearings shall be conducted in the spoken language commonly used in the locality, and judgments, notices and other documents shall be issued in the written language commonly used in the locality.” Therefore, during the investigations, prosecu-tions and trials of those accused of terrorist activities, China’s public security organs at all levels shall abide by the laws and regulations to strictly guarantee that criminal sus-pects and defendants use their own languages and express their rights in judicial activities. As for the defendants of terrorist crimes, the law stipulates that they have the same rights as ordinary criminal defendants to obtain legal help, entrust defenders, apply for withdrawal, supplementary verification or reverification, etc. Likewise, prisoners in custody have equal rights of health and visit as ordinary criminals. However, some Western countries, such as the United States, always cast a veil over their double standards of anti-terrorism activities. That is, violation of basic human rights including secret detention of terrorist suspects and deprivation of their personal freedom is common practice. But contrarily, these countries deliberately confuse concepts of ethnic and religious issues with human rights, providing shelters for some overseas organizations engaged in terrorist activities, or even establish, finance and support terrorist forces, leading to the darker shadow of “more anti-terrorism efforts, more terrorism” on international community. Human rights bodies of the United Nations have always stressed that no one can engage in terrorist activities on the grounds of inadequate rule of law, violations of human rights, ethnic, racial and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization as well as poor governance. Chinese gov-ernment, a strong supporter of this spirit, also holds that concerning global common interests and security, the international community should take a unified position to resolutely crack down on terrorism, no matter how, when, where and against whom.
Upgrading education and employment is crucial to eradicating the soil and nurturing conditions that cultivate terrorism. The Xinjiang training camps are exactly the practice under United Nations’ global anti-terrorism strategy that stifles terrorism in the cradle. In this way, participants will gain a clearer understanding of their responsibilities and obligations as citizens of this country along with harms of extremism; they will understand what is legal and illegal or dos and don’ts; they will gain the spirit of rule of law through better cultural literacy, preparing them with greater ability of foreign exchanges and to lead a better life.
In fact, relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council on anti-terrorism and human rights protection clearly point out that corresponding human rights can be der-ogated in the process of anti-terrorism and terrorist investigations because terrorism has great negative influence in politics and other aspects. Certainly, such derogation should be conducted under provisions of relevant international bills of human rights. According to John von Doussa, President of Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in Australia, “there can be no argument that terrorism is a gross viola-tion of fundamental human rights… In the extraordinary circumstance of a terrorist attack, protecting national security may involve restricting rights. But this can be done consistently with international human rights law. Human rights are not inflexible, esoteric principles that hamstring government action to respond to threats to public order and security. International human rights law was forged in the wake of devas-tating periods of global conflict and clearly recognizes the necessity of balancing the protection of individual rights against the protection of national security. However, this balance must occur within the human rights framework. International law allows for derogation from a range of individual rights where the gravity of the threat means that the government has no other choice than to suspend or restrict certain rights of in-dividuals13. This latitude should be sufficient to accommodate effective anti-terrorism measures. Article 4 of the ICCPR makes specific provision for derogation in times of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.” 14
Better protection of human rights is always on the way. In view of this, China will hold firm to the path of human rights development in line with its national conditions, promoting and protecting human rights and meanwhile striving for better growth, so as to achieve coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. In terms of measures against separatists, extremists and terrorists, these are all China’s internal affairs that definitely beyond foreign interference. There is no absolute and boundless freedom of human rights, which means all the freedoms are legally endowed. Actual support to crimes and double standards under the cover of human rights will bring ruin upon oneself. In particular, some western countries made indiscreet remarks through advantage of world opinions, obviously going to any length to destroy China’s global image and impose negative influence or even separate China.
Facing such challenges, Chinese people should keep strategic focus under the leadership of the Communist Party of China through stronger belief in the “four consciousnesses”, which refers to consciousness of the ideology, the whole, the core and the line, together with the confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Only in this way can we Chinese realize the Chinese dream to be a giant in the Orient.
(Translated by LU Mimi)
*DING Shouqing ( 丁守庆 ), Dean and Professor, Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.
**GU Liyan ( 古丽燕 ), Researcher of the Central Asian Institute, Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. This article is the phased achievement of the national social science fund’s key project Research on the Theory and Reality of the Sinicization of Islam in Xinjiang (Project No.: 17ZDA232) and the project Research on the Path of Rule of Law of ‘Depoliticization’ in Xinjiang (Project No.: XJEDU040316B02), which is funded by the key research base of humanities and social sciences in Xinjiang’s colleges and universities, “Central Asia and Northwest Frontier China Political Economy Research Center”.
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2.Cui Songjun, “Extraterritorial Observation of Global Terrorist Attacks from May 5 to June 1, 2019”, WeChat Public Account “Anti-terrorism Research”.
3.The State Council Information Office, Anti-terrorism, Anti-extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2019)
4.Yang Languang, “View and Practice of Human Rights in the United States”, accessed August 1, 2019, http:// www.qtheory.cn/hqwg/2013/201315/201308/t20130870 _ 257140.htm.
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7. Yu Juan, “Universal Values and China’s Road to Human Rights”, Jianghan Tribune 8 (2009): 46.
8. “The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs refutes the false statements made by the spokesman of the Turk-ish Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Xinjiang”, accessed August 10, 2019, http://news.cri.cn/2019-02-13/956f82bf-acb4-c969-f243-83e4d8bb96bb.html.
9.Ai Feng, “Religion Governance by Laws”, accessed August 10, 2019, http://news.ifeng.com/a/20150710/ 441431930.shtml.
10.Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Paragraph 17, Part I.
11.Zhang Ligang and Ju Xuyuan, “Balance between Anti-terrorism Law and Human Rights Protection: The Basic Value of China’s Anti-terrorism Law”, Journal of Xinjiang Police College 4 (2016):15.
12. Ibid., 16.
13.John von Doussa, “Integration of Human Rights and Anti-Terrorism Act: Anti-Terrorism Operation in Australia”, accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.China.com.cn/news/2008-04/21/content _ 14987726.htm.
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