Within days of adopting the country’s first counter-terror law, China on Thursday announced it is readying a new law to fight religious extremism that will focus on the restive Xinjiang province in the country’s northwest.
Senior officials from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) told state media the new regulations “...will provide solid legal support for Xinjiang to combat terrorism and religious extremism”.
“Xinjiang lawmakers began to research the drafting of a regulation against religious extremism last year and have made significant progress,” Nayim Yassen, an official of the Xinjiang Regional People’s Congress, was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.
“The spread of religious extremism is believed to have led to an increasing number of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China in recent years,” the newspaper added.
The remote Xinjiang region, China’s largest province, has been shaken by violence in recent years as members of the Muslim Uyghur community targeted government offices and police stations.
Members of the community were linked to knife attacks in the southwestern city of Kunming in 2014, which left more than 30 dead at a railway station, and a suicide attack at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Beijing has blamed the attacks on local terrorists aided and incited by foreign elements intent on separating the region.
Exiled Uyghur groups and rights groups have said the attacks were the result of China’s oppressive policies against the community.
Several restrictions on religious practices have been put in place in Xinjiang. Last year, for example, local authorities banned full-face coverings in public for women. Legislators, according to state media, said such clothing was associated with religious extremism.
China has been toughening its stand on incidents in Xinjiang, besides ensuring that flow of information from the region is restricted; independently verifying information from XUAR is difficult.
Last month, Beijing banished French journalist Ursula Gauthier for writing a story from XUAR, which authorities thought was sympathetic to terror groups.
“... It is worth noting that even press freedom has its limits and citing press freedom as defence for a deeply biased and potentially dangerous report is not at all convincing. There will be further restrictions for media when conducting terror-related reports, according to China’s first anti-terror law,” official news agency Xinhua said in a stinging editorial against Gauthier.
The editorial added it was “...advisable for Western media groups to abandon double standards when reporting terror-related stories, so as to change the impression that they think lives lost at the hands of terrorists in the West are more valuable than those in other parts of the world”.