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China: Extremism in Recent Legislation

(Jan. 12, 2016) “Extremism” used to be more a politicized notion appearing in government instruments than a precisely defined legal term under the laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Recently, however, the term has been addressed in a series of laws: first, the new National Security Law contains an article with the general declaration that the state opposes extremism; second, extremism-related crimes have been added to the Criminal Law; and third, the Anti-Terrorism Law in effect defines extremism and sets forth penalties for those extremism-related activities deemed not serious enough to constitute a criminal offense.

 National Security Law

The current PRC National Security Law was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on July 1, 2015, and took effect the same day. (Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo Guojia Anquan Fa [PRC National Security Law] (adopted by the NPC Standing Committee and effective on July 1, 2015), Central People’s Government website.) The old PRC National Security law enacted in 1993 was previously repealed by the PRC Counter-Espionage Law, effective November 1, 2014. (Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo Fan Jiandie Fa [PRC Anti-Espionage Law] (adopted by the NPC Standing Committee and effective on Nov. 1, 2014), art. 40, NPC official website.)

The new National Security Law contains an article declaring that the state opposes extremism:

The State opposes all forms of terrorism and extremism; builds up the capacity to prevent and deal with terrorism; carries out work related to intelligence, investigation, prevention, handling, and monitoring of funds pursuant to the law; bans terrorist organizations pursuant to the law; and severely punishes violent terrorist activities. (PRC National Security Law, art. 28.)

The Ninth Amendment to the Criminal Law

On August 29, 2015, the NPC Standing Committee adopted the Ninth Amendment to the PRC Criminal Law. (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Xingfa Xiuzheng An (Jiu) [Amendment to the PRC Criminal Law (9)] (Ninth Amendment) (adopted by the NPC Standing Committee on Aug. 29, 2015, effective Nov. 1, 2015), NPC official website.)

The Ninth Amendment added several extremism-related crimes under article 120 of the Criminal Law governing terrorist crimes. According to the newly added article 120c, whoever “propagates terrorism or extremism by making or distributing materials including books and audio and video materials that propagate terrorism or extremism or by teaching or releasing information, etc.” may be subject to penalties of up to five years of imprisonment and a fine. When the circumstances are serious, longer imprisonment and a fine or confiscation of property may be imposed.  (Id.)

Article 120d was added to prohibit “making use of extremism in instigating or coercing the general public to disrupt the implementation of the State system of marriage, justice, education, or social management;”  article 120e, to prohibit “forcing others by violence or coercion to wear clothes or symbols propagating terrorism or extremism in public places;” and article 120f, to prohibit illegal possession of books or audio or video materials propagating terrorism or extremism. (Id.)

In addition, pursuant to the newly revised article 311, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in investigations when “clearly knowing that another person has committed the crime of espionage, terrorist activities, or extremism” may be subject to penalties of up to three years in prison. (Id.)

 Anti-Terrorism Law

On December 27, 2015, the NPC Standing Committee adopted the PRC Anti-Terrorism Law, which took effect on January 1, 2016. (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fan Kongbu Zhuyi Fa [PRC Law on Anti-Terrorism] (adopted by the NPC Standing Committee on Dec. 27, 2015, effective Jan. 1, 2016), Central People’s Government website.)

In addition to providing a precise definition of terrorism for the first time, the Law in effect defines “extremism.”  Article 4, paragraph 2, provides: “[t]he State opposes all forms of extremism that incite hatred, incite discrimination, advocate violence, etc. by distorting religious teachings or other means, in order to eliminate the ideological foundation of terrorism.” (Id.)

Article 19 requires telecommunications operators and Internet service providers to prevent transmission of information containing terrorist or extremist contents. (Id.) Organizations and individuals are responsible for reporting to the public security organs if they uncover any materials advocating extremism. (Id. art. 28.)

Wherever “necessary for anti-terrorism intelligence information work,” the public security organs, national security organs, and military organs may “employ technological means of reconnaissance,” which generally includes wiretapping, “after going through strict approval procedures.” Materials obtained by such means may be used in the investigation, prosecution, and trial of the crimes of terrorist activities or extremism. (Id. art. 45.)

The Anti-Terrorism Law authorizes public security organs to impose a ten-to-fifteen-day detention and a fine of up to RMB10,000 (about US$1,500) on the following extremism-related activities not serious enough to constitute a criminal offense:

  • advocating terrorism or extremism or inciting others to carry out terrorist or extremist activities;
  • producing, disseminating, or illegally possessing materials that advocate terrorism or extremism;
  • compelling others to wear clothes or symbols that advocate terrorism or extremism in public places; and
  • providing information, funds, supplies, labor, technology, venues, or other support, assistance, or facilitation for advocating terrorism or extremism or carrying out terrorist or extremist activities. (Id. art. 80.)

Detention of five to fifteen days and a fine of up to RMB10,000 may be imposed on “activities carried out using extremism” that are not serious enough to constitute a criminal offense, such as:

  • forcing others to participate in religious activities or provide assets or labor services to religious activities venues or personnel;
  • intentionally damaging ID cards, household registers, or RMB notes, or inciting or coercing others to do so;
  • inciting or coercing others to replace marriage or divorce registration with religious ceremonies; and
  • inciting or coercing minors not to receive compulsory education. (Id. art. 81.)