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China: Legal Definition of Terrorist Activities Clarified

(Nov. 4, 2011) On October 29, 2011, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) passed the Decision on Issues Related to Strengthening Anti-Terrorism Work, which clarifies the definitions of terrorist activities, terrorist organizations, and terrorist. (Text of the Decision [in Chinese], Xinhuanet (Oct. 29, 2011).)

China has not passed a comprehensive anti-terrorism law, which the government says would be a premature step. (Chen Liping, Quanguo Renda Changweihui Zuochu Jueding Jiaqiang Fan Kongbu Gongzuo [The NPC Made a Decision to Strengthen Anti-Terrorism Work], LEGAL DAILY (Oct. 29, 2011).) Anti-terrorism provisions can be found in the Criminal Law and in a handful of other national laws such as the State Security Law. For example, article 120 of the Criminal Law addresses the crimes of organizing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations. (Amendment III to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China (Order of the President No. 64) (Dec. 29, 2001), Congressional-Executive Commission on China website.)

There was previously no clear and precise definition of terrorist organizations, or of terrorist activities or terrorists, provided in domestic law, and the lack of clear definitions has hampered international cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts. The Decision has been passed to fill this gap. (Id.) In the Decision, terrorist activities are defined to be:

Activities that severely endanger society that have the goal of creating terror in society, endangering public security, or threatening state organs and international organizations and which, by the use of violence, sabotage, intimidation, and other methods, cause or are intended to cause human casualties, great loss to property, damage to public infrastructure, and chaos in the social order, as well as activities that incite, finance, or assist the implementation of the above activities through any other means. (Decision, art. 2.)

Terrorist organizations are defined as criminal organizations established for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities. (Id.) Terrorists are those who organize, plan, and carry out terrorist activities or are members of any terrorist organizations. (Id.)

The Decision also provides the procedure for making lists of terrorist organizations and terrorists: the leading state anti-terrorism agency will decide on and adjust the lists, and the lists will be published by the State Council public security department (i.e., the Ministry of Public Security). (Decision, art. 4.)