BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - China will step up efforts to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday (Oct 18) in a speech at the opening of a key Communist Party congress.
Mr Xi said that maintaining national security is in the interests of all people.
A sweeping national security law passed in July 2015 offered a vague definition of “endangering state security”, opening up greater opportunities for laying state security and terrorism charges, which have seen rising prosecution in recent years.
In China’s far western Xinjiang region, the mostly Muslim Uighur population has struggled with increasingly strict curbs on their faith, including bans on beards and public prayers.
The officially atheist authorities say the restrictions and heavy police presence are intended to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open air prison. The authorities have flooded the region with tens of thousands of security personnel and placed police stations on nearly ever block. Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous in places of worship.
Meanwhile, rights groups say several Tibetan monks have died in self-immolation protests in recent months.
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has long said he wants more autonomy for Tibet rather than outright independence. But the Chinese Communist Party views him as a dangerous "separatist" campaigning for Tibetan independence.
Rights groups and exiles accuse China of trampling on the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, charges strongly denied by Beijing, which says its rule has ended serfdom and brought prosperity to a once backward region.