China legalises overseas anti-terror military ops

New recruit People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout slogans during a march in China on Nov 29.
New recruit People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout slogans during a march in China on Nov 29.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has legalised overseas counter-terror operations by its military, details of a controversial new law showed, as it tries to tie violence linked to mainly Muslim Xinjiang into global concerns about extremism.

Under the counter-terrorism legislation passed during the weekend, Beijing "may send personnel outside the border to carry out anti-terror activities" when the "relevant country" agrees, according to the text published by the official Xinhua news agency.

The measure applies to the People's Liberation Army, the People's Armed Police and employees of the country's public security organs, Xinhua said.

The new legislation could apply to similar actions in the face of situations such as the November murder of a Chinese citizen by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

Within China, the government has tightened social controls both online and on the ground, and the counter-terrorism Bill could further reduce space for dissent.

Critics said the new rules give the authorities wide scope for interpretation over what is harmful to state security. The law is "terrible news for peaceful (government) critics, the rule of law, (Internet service providers), businesses and many others in China", Ms Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch's China director, said on Twitter.

The measure compels companies to cooperate with requests from the government to hand over data or communications related to terror investigations, fining or jailing anyone who does not comply.

But provisions in earlier drafts that would have obliged them to install "back doors" in products or turn over encryption keys to Beijing did not appear in the final version.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'China legalises overseas anti-terror military ops'. Print Edition | Subscribe