The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang
V. Giving Top Priority to a Preventive Counterterrorism Approach
Terrorism and extremism jeopardize human rights and sustainable development as they propagate intolerance between different religions, cultures and societies, challenge human justice and dignity, and do great harm to peace and security. Fighting terrorism and extremism is a common issue and arduous task faced by the entire world. For years, many countries and regions have been actively exploring concrete approaches and measures for combating and preventing terrorism and extremism that accord with their own conditions.
Based on experience learned from the international community, China has been active in implementing the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly concerning the United Nations Global Counterterrorism Strategy (60/288), and has been working hard to wipe out the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to prevent and combat terrorism. Based on its own conditions, Xinjiang has been making intensive counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts. Upholding the principle of fighting and preventing terrorism at the same time, the autonomous region has been taking aggressive action against violent terrorist crimes, and at the same time, addressing the problem at its source. It has been making every effort to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens from violation by terrorism and extremism. Specific measures include improving public wellbeing, promoting knowledge of the law through education, and offering education and aid through vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law.
Making great efforts to ensure and improve public wellbeing. Public wellbeing is vital to people’s happiness and to social harmony and stability. In the past, some areas in Xinjiang suffered from terrorism, and religious extremism infiltrated people’s work and daily life, causing great damage and posing a threat to social stability, economic development, and security. In recent years, following a people-centered approach to development, Xinjiang has focused on ensuring and improving people’s standard of living and implementing projects that benefit the public in employment, education, medical care, social security, and other fields. These include:
• implementing the plan of transfer employment for 100,000 laborers in southern Xinjiang in three years (2018-2020) and having realized the transfer employment of 75,000 people from families suffering extreme poverty;
• adding a total of 1.4008 million new urban jobs and transferring 8.305 million surplus rural laborers for employment in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018 through developing labor-intensive industries, organized transfer for employment, and creating jobs through business startups;
• popularizing nine-year compulsory education and providing free three-year preschool education in urban and rural areas in southern Xinjiang;
• offering free universal health check-up; ensuring full coverage of serious illness insurance, and ensuring full coverage of centralized treatment of 15 serious illnesses and contracted services for chronic illnesses for the poverty-stricken rural population;
• improving the social security system, and ensuring that the standard of subsistence allowance for impoverished urban and rural residents is raised continuously.
As people’s standard of living improves, the public will provide greater support to the government’s counterterrorism, de-radicalization and stability-maintaining effort.
Popularizing understanding of the law and strengthening the sense of the rule of law. Rural residents in Xinjiang have a relatively weak sense of the rule of law, lack understanding of the law, and are vulnerable to instigation and intimidation by terrorist and extremist forces, resulting in criminal behavior. Attaching great importance to popularizing understanding of the law, Xinjiang has issued a series of legal documents, including Regulations of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Promoting Publicity and Education on the Law, Opinions on Developing Bases for Youth Education and Practice on the Rule of Law in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Opinions on Implementing the Guideline on Adopting a Responsibility System for State Organs with the Principle that Law-Enforcing Departments Are Responsible for Publicizing the Law.
Focusing on the overall goal of long-term social stability, Xinjiang has carried out various forms of publicity activities on the rule of law, including “Year of Community-level Promotion of Rule of Law”, “Month of Publicizing the Constitution and Other Laws”, “Day of Universal Education on State Security”, “Promotion of Rule of Law in Communities”, “Teaching Rule of Law under the National Flag”, and “Strengthening Public Legal Awareness at Bazaars”, so as to help people of various ethnic groups to distinguish between legal and illegal conducts and improve citizens’ abilities to consciously resist the infiltration of religious extremism. These activities are designed to influence the general public, including young people, with a goal of promoting the concept of rule of law, cultivating a belief in rule of law, and advancing the practice of rule of law. They focus on raising people’s awareness about the rule of law and development of institution. They use traditional media and internet as platforms and are supported by the establishment and improvement of a community-level public service network for promoting the rule of law.
Actively providing help and aid through education. Education and training centers have been established with the goal of educating and rehabilitating people guilty of minor crimes or law-breaking and eradicating the influence of terrorism and extremism, in order to prevent them from falling victim to terrorism and extremism, and to nip terrorist activities in the bud.
At present, the trainees at the centers fall into three categories:
1. People who were incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime;
2. People who were incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities that posed a real danger but did not cause actual harm, whose subjective culpability was not deep, who made confessions of their crimes and were contrite about their past actions and thus can be exempted from punishment in accordance with the law, and who have demonstrated the willingness to receive training;
3. People who were convicted and received prison sentence for terrorist or extremist crimes and after serving their sentences, have been assessed as still posing potential threats to society, and who have been ordered by people’s courts to receive education at the centers in accordance with the law.
In accordance with Articles 29 and 30 of the Counterterrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China, people in the first and third categories will be placed at the centers to receive support and education. With regard to people in the second category, a small number of them should be punished severely, while the majority should be rehabilitated in accordance with the policy of striking a balance between punishment and compassion. Confession, repentance, and willingness to receive training are preconditions for leniency, and these people will receive education to help reform their ways after they have been exempted from penalty in accordance with the law.
Education and training centers are institutions established in accordance with the law. They have clear goals and methods of training, criteria for program completion, and methods of assessment, which are stated in the agreements they signed with trainees. When trainees meet the standards of assessment, they will be presented with completion certificates. The centers’ curricula consist of standard spoken and written Chinese language, law, vocational skills, and courses on the eradication of extremism. They are staffed by quality teachers and senior vocational trainers. They formulate teaching plans, compile and print teaching materials, and develop teaching systems in a unified manner. They offer tailored and even individualized education to different types of trainees. Teaching and studying at the centers have been standardized. A step-by-step approach has been adopted in the process of study and training, which begins with learning standard spoken and written Chinese language, then moves on to studying the law, and concludes with learning vocational skills.
In view of the fact that some trainees have been influenced by religious extremism, have not received good education, are weak in the use of standard spoken and written Chinese language, slow in acquiring modern knowledge, and have poor communication skills, the centers fully ensure citizens’ constitutional right to learn and use standard Chinese language and provide conditions for them to learn. Through education and training, the trainees have improved their competence in the use of standard Chinese language and broadened their channels to acquire modern knowledge and information. They have realized that only by mastering standard Chinese language can they better adapt to contemporary society.
In view of the fact that the trainees have a weak awareness of rule of law, the centers regard an understanding of the law as a key link in helping the trainees to increase their sense of state, citizenship, and rule of law. They have invited judges, public procurators, and lawyers to give lectures on laws and regulations such as the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, General Provisions of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China, Education Law of the People’s Republic of China, Counterterrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China, Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People’s Republic of China, and Regulations of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on De-radicalization. Many trainees were influenced by religious extremism and their conducts closely followed the “religious law” and “domestic discipline” concocted by terrorists and extremists. They defied the law of the state, and even interfered with and sabotaged the implementation of state law. Through study, the trainees have realized that as citizens they have an obligation to abide by the Constitution and laws of the state and they should conduct themselves in accordance with the rights and obligations endowed to them by the Constitution and laws.
In view of the fact that some trainees lack vocational skills and have difficulties finding employment, the centers regard learning vocational skills as an important way to enhance trainees’ ability to find work. Based on local demand and employment conditions, they set up training programs in the making of garments, footwear and hats, food processing, assembly of electronic products, typesetting and printing, cosmetology and hairdressing, e-business, and other courses. To those who have the will to learn multiple skills and meet the relevant qualifications, they provide such training as to ensure that the trainees can master one or two vocational skills upon completing their study at the centers. The centers attach importance to the integration of study and practice, and have elevated trainees’ practical abilities. Through training, trainees have gained rudimentary vocational skills, and some of them have completed their study at the centers and found jobs.
In view of the fact that trainees have been influenced by religious extremism to various degrees, the centers integrate de-radicalization into the whole process of education and training. Through progressive study of laws and regulations, policies on ethnic and religious affairs, and religious knowledge, and through unveiling the hazards of terrorism and extremism, trainees have realized that religious extremism is totally against religious doctrines and constitutes the ideological base of ethnic separatism and violent terrorism. They gain a thorough understanding of the very nature and perils of terrorism and extremism, and free themselves from the influence and control of ideological terrorism and extremism.
The centers adopt a boarding school management system, and are staffed with instructors, doctors and personnel for logistic services and management to provide trainees with a normal study and life routine. Trainees can have home visits on a regular basis and can ask for leave to attend to private affairs. The centers are equipped with indoor and outdoor sports and cultural facilities and regularly hold such activities. The centers fully respect and protect the customs and habits of trainees of different ethnic groups, care for their mental health, offer psychological counseling services, and help them solve real-life problems. In accordance with the law, the centers adopt a policy of separating education and religion. Trainees may not organize and participate in religious activities at the centers.
Thanks to these preventive measures, Xinjiang has witnessed a marked change in the social environment in recent years. A healthy atmosphere is spreading, while evil influences are declining. The citizens’ legal awareness has been notably enhanced. The trend in society is now to pursue knowledge of modern science and technology and a cultured way of life. Citizens now consciously resist religious extremism. The ethnic groups of Xinjiang now enjoy closer relations through communication, exchange and blending. People have a much stronger sense of fulfillment, happiness and security.
VI. Finding Experience for Counterterrorism and De-radicalization
Counterterrorism and de-radicalization effort in Xinjiang is based on the reality in Xinjiang and the rest of the country, while drawing on the experience of other countries. The government prioritizes safeguarding the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups. Starting by addressing deep-seated problems, China has worked to explore effective and law-based approaches to counterterrorism and de-radicalization to protect people of all ethnic groups from the scourge of terrorism and extremism, and identified successful experiences and effective measures.
– Combating terrorism in accordance with the law and protecting human rights. Safety is a prerequisite for human rights protection, and human rights cannot be guaranteed if we fail to strike at terrorism. Fighting terrorist activities and protecting lives and property are fundamental to protecting human rights.
Terrorist activities were once frequent in Xinjiang, destroying local peace, order, unity, and progress, and showing callous disdain for the people’s right to life, health, development and other basic human rights. In the face of terrorist atrocities, the local government has launched preventive and punitive countermeasures in accordance with the law and perseveres with deterrence against terrorist forces, maximizing its efforts to protect basic human rights from terrorism and extremism. No violent or terrorist activities have occurred in Xinjiang for more than two years; the number of criminal cases and public security cases has fallen significantly; the infiltration of extremism has been curbed, and peace and harmony has returned to society. In 2018, tourism in Xinjiang grew rapidly: Tourists from inside and outside China numbered over 150 million, a year-on-year increase of 40 percent; foreign tourists totaled 2.4032 million, a year-on-year increase of 10.78 percent; tourist spending totaled RMB252.2 billion, a year-on-year growth of 41.6 percent.
At the same time, Xinjiang has paid special attention to human rights protection in its counterterrorism effort, preventing any violation of human rights caused by counterterrorist measures. To this end, the local government has enhanced legislation on counterterrorism, so as to keep its counterterrorism activities within the law and punish acts of terrorism in accordance with the law. It has made every effort to ensure that its counterterrorist measures do not infringe the basic rights, interests and freedoms of local ethnic groups as endowed by the law, and that normal social order is maintained.
– Counterterrorism does not target any specific region, ethnic group or religion. It is stipulated in the Counterterrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China that “In counterterrorism work, citizens’ freedom in religious belief and ethnic customs shall be respected, and any discrimination based on regions, ethnic groups, religions and other grounds shall be prohibited.”
Xinjiang is inhabited by multiple ethnic groups composed of believers in multiple religions. In the course of counterterrorism and de-radicalization, the local government forbids any organization or individual from using religion to split the country, spread religious extremism, incite ethnic hatred, undermine ethnic unity, disturb social order, harm citizens’ physical or mental health, hinder the implementation of the country’s administrative, judicial, educational and cultural systems, or harm national security, national interests, public interests and civil rights and interests. It prevents ill-intentioned people from using religion or religious activities to create disorder or commit crimes.
The local government also abides by the policies and stipulations in the Constitution, other state laws and administrative regulations concerning freedom of religious belief. In the course of counterterrorism and de-radicalization, the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have their freedom of religious belief fully protected. Citizens are entitled to choose to be religious believers or non-believers, and no organization or individual may force citizens to believe in a religion or not, nor discriminate against believers or non-believers.
Xinjiang attaches equal importance to services and management in addressing religious affairs. The local government has worked to enhance the training of religious staff, expand channels for them to acquire religious knowledge, and improve the conditions of venues for religious activities, so that the religious sentiments, beliefs and needs of believers are fully respected.
– Balancing compassion and severity and taking measures for prevention, education and rehabilitation. Xinjiang follows the criminal justice policy of balancing compassion and severity, and taking the approach of reforming the offenders through education. A few leaders and core members of violent and terrorist gangs who have committed heinous crimes or are inveterate offenders will be severely punished in accordance with the law so as to protect citizens’ basic human rights from the scourge of terrorism and extremism. Offenders who have committed minor crimes under the influence of religious extremism will be educated, rehabilitated and protected through vocational training, through the learning of standard Chinese language and labor skills, and acquiring knowledge of the law; these people are large in number. The approach to the second group of people is rehabilitation rather than punishment, care instead of rejection. Through such education, they will improve their ability to distinguish right from wrong, to resist infiltration, and to correct themselves. They will rid themselves of terrorist influence, the extremist mindset, and outmoded cultural practices. They will increase their employability, expand their employment channels, and become more confident in life. This approach clearly demonstrates the humanitarian stance of the Chinese government.
– Maintaining stability and improving the standards of living. Happiness is the most important human right. Safeguarding and improving people’s lives contributes to public wellbeing and social harmony and stability.
Some areas in Xinjiang were severely disturbed by terrorism and the infiltration of religious extremism. For this reason, some people cannot speak, read or write in standard Chinese, have a weak understanding of rule of law, and have difficulty finding employment through a lack of employable skills. As a result, such people are more inclined to be incited or coerced into criminality by terrorist and extremist forces.
Social stability and better lives promote all-round human development. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are leading a new life. They pursue a cultured way of life, and consciously resist religious extremism. More than ever before, ethnic groups in Xinjiang are united and live in harmony, and popular support for counterterrorism, maintenance of stability and de-radicalization is increasing. The people of Xinjiang are full of hope for a better future.
VII. International Counterterrorism Exchanges and Cooperation
The global spread of terrorism and extremism over the years has inflicted agony on humanity. Some of the most notorious terrorist attacks include: the September 11 attacks in 2001 that killed 2,996 people in the US; the Bali bombings on October 12, 2002 that killed 202 people in Indonesia; the Madrid train bombings on March 11, 2004 that killed 190 and injured over 1,500 people in Spain; the Beslan school siege on September 1, 2004 that killed 335 people, including 186 minors, and injured 958 people in Russia; the London bombings on July 7, 2005 that killed 52 and injured over 700 people in the UK; the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 that killed 195 and injured close to 300 people in India; the shooting on July 22, 2011 that killed 77 people in Oslo, Norway; the Westgate shopping mall attack on September 21, 2013 that killed 72 and injured 168 people in Nairobi, Kenya; the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015 that killed 132 and injured more than 300 people in France; the Brussels bombings on March 22, 2016 that killed 35 and injured over 300 persons in Belgium; the Berlin truck attack on December 19, 2016 that killed 12 and injured 49 people in Germany; the Istanbul nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017 that killed 39 and injured 69 people in Turkey; the Sinai mosque attack on November 24, 2017 that killed 235 and injured 109 people in Egypt. According to incomplete statistics, in 2018 there were 1,127 terrorist attacks globally, causing 13,000 deaths.
Throughout the world terrorism and extremism gravely threaten peace and development, and endanger the life and property of individuals. Striking aggressively at terrorism and furthering the de-radicalization effort is the common responsibility of the international community and essential to the protection of human rights.
China opposes all forms of terrorism and extremism, and opposes double standards on fighting terrorism. It opposes linking terrorism and extremism with specific countries, ethnic groups or religions. It advocates comprehensive measures to address both the symptoms and the root causes, with the dual purposes of striking at terrorist activities and eliminating poverty, so that there will be no room for terrorism to breed. It supports more pragmatic international cooperation in the fight against terrorism on the basis of mutual respect and consultation on an equal footing.
As a responsible member of the international community, China supports the United Nations in playing a leading and coordinating role in international cooperation against terrorism. China upholds the UN Charter and other principles and norms of international law. It has supported a series of resolutions on combating terrorism adopted by the UN Security Council, and contributed to the full implementation of the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy. China has joined most of the international counterterrorism conventions, including the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages.
Under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China and countries involved have signed the following documents: the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, Cooperation Between SCO Member States on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, SCO Convention on Combating Terrorism, SCO Convention on Combating Extremism, SCO Cooperation Programme on Fighting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2019-2021, and SCO Plan of Action for Cooperation with Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on Fighting Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes.
China has carried out a number of fruitful counterterrorism exchanges and cooperation with relevant countries through such bilateral and multilateral mechanisms as joint anti-terrorism exercises, joint border defense operations, and suppression of illegal cyberspace activities by terrorist, separatist and extremist forces, as well as security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and judicial cooperation during major international events. It has played an important role in maintaining international and regional security and stability.
Xinjiang is a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism in China. In recent years, under the care and support of the central government, Xinjiang has established cooperation mechanisms with neighboring countries on fighting terrorism in border areas and between law-enforcement departments. Pragmatic exchanges and cooperation have been carried out in intelligence, joint border control, the investigation and capture of suspected terrorists, cutting off funds for terrorism, suppression of cyberspace terrorism and transnational crimes, judicial assistance, and cross-border oil and gas pipeline security. Drawing experience from global efforts, Xinjiang has contributed to the international fight on terrorism through effective counterterrorism and de-radicalization campaigns based on its regional realities.
There is no doubt that Xinjiang’s fight against terrorism and extremism is an important component of the global struggle, and has made an important contribution to the latter. While preventing and combating terrorism and extremism in accordance with the law, Xinjiang has maintained social stability and promoted social progress in the region, meeting the people’s aspirations for a safe and stable environment to live and work in, and ensuring the basic rights of all ethnic groups to the greatest extent.
In today’s world, faced with the severe challenges of terrorism and extremism, no country can shy away from them. Only by strengthening our community of shared future, abandoning double standards, enhancing political mutual trust, reaching strategic consensus, and promoting exchanges and cooperation, can we effectively curb and combat terrorism and extremism in the interests of world peace and stability.
Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, with the strong support of the people across the country, and through the joint effort of all the ethnic groups of Xinjiang, China has made significant progress in its counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Xinjiang. However, the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism are not gone; their influence can still be felt. And the “East Turkistan” forces are in search of opportunities to create trouble. We still face a severe and complex situation in combating terrorism and extremism in Xinjiang. Focusing on social stability and lasting peace, Xinjiang will continue to fight terrorism in accordance with the law, ensure human rights, develop the economy, improve people’s lives, and build a united, harmonious, prosperous, and culturally advanced socialist society where people live and work in peace and contentment.