Beijing's limited options exposed by ISIS killing

BEIJING • The killing of a Chinese citizen by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shone the spotlight on China's paucity of options when its people are kidnapped abroad, despite its growing military prowess and international profile.

Adding to concerns, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said there were at least seven Chinese guests among those taken hostage by gunmen at a hotel in Mali's capital Bamako yesterday.

With its forces untried abroad and its diplomatic influence limited in the Middle East, it is handicapped when faced with cases like hostage Fan Jinghui, whose killing was announced this week by ISIS militants.

China has previously obtained the release of workers kidnapped in places like Pakistan and Africa, though diplomats say it is often by paying ransoms.

To address the vulnerability of its growing global commercial and diplomatic interests, Beijing is currently considering a law that would create a legal framework for sending troops abroad on counter-terrorism missions. Article 76 would authorise the military, as well as state and public security personnel, to conduct counter-terrorism operations abroad with the approval of the relevant country.

The draft law was made public late last year, but it is not clear when it may be passed. China's security chief said this week in the wake of the Paris attacks that the government needed to get on with it.

China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, namely the US, Britain, France and Russia.

"China would not do anything without United Nations' authority," said a source familiar with China's diplomatic thinking, dismissing the possibility of secret raids in Syria by Chinese military rescuers.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it activated an emergency mechanism to try to save Mr Fan, but has given no details.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing's limited options exposed by ISIS killing'. Print Edition | Subscribe