The Chinese government passed an “antiterrorism” law right after they announced they will not renew press credentials for French journalist Ursula Gauthier after she criticized their treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority.
Gauthier has lived in China since 2009, where she works for French magazine L’OBS. In an article from November, she wrote that China used the Paris attacks “to justify crackdowns on Uighur people in Xinjiang.” The Chinese officials accused Gauthier of supporting terrorism.
“From the beginning, they wanted me to apologise for supporting terrorism,” she explained. “I said I never supported terrorism, how do you want me to apologise for something I have not written.”
Last month, China fired and promised charges against the editor-in-chief of the Xinjiang Daily, the Communist Party’s largest publication. He allegedly criticized the regime’s policy against the Uyghurs and discussed the party’s policies in public. The party also revoked his membership.
Then, on Sunday, the China passed their first “antiterrorism law” despite international criticism. Foreign leaders, such as President Barack Obama, and human rights organizations believe the law will allow the government to censor more media and people. The contents of the law are not yet public, but one lawmaker involved said it included permission for the government to access “encrypted data” on the internet.
“Not only in China, but also in many places internationally, growing numbers of terrorists are using the Internet to promote and incite terrorism, and are using the Internet to organize, plan and carry out terrorist acts,” justified Li Shouwei of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
The law states that all “telecommunication and Internet service providers ‘shall provide technical interfaces, decryption and other technical support and assistance to public security and state security agencies when they are following the law to avert and investigate terrorist activities.'”
The Chinese officials insist the country “faces a growing threat” from people like the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. Violence has been an ongoing issue in the region. In early June, Chinese officials forced Muslims to forgo Ramadan, not allowing them to fast or display their faith.
One week later, a bomb and knife attack occurred at a security checkpoint in Xinjiang that left 18 people dead. Some believed the attackers retaliated because of the ban.
Last year, the government banned Islamic beards and burqas on public buses. The officials also forced all shops sell alcohol and cigarettes, even though the Islamic faith forbids the items. Authorities sentenced at least one couple to prison who allegedly broke the “Islamic garb” law in March. The man received six years while the court sentenced the woman to two years.