BEIJING (Reuters) - China passed a new law on Saturday to give a clear legal definition of what constitutes an act of terror as it steps up the fight against what the government views as a “real threat from terrorist activities”.
The law defines how security forces should deal with such acts, and gives the government the power to name publicly those it suspects of involvement and freeze their assets, officials said.
“Our country is facing a real threat from terrorist activities, and the fight will be long-term and complex, and it gets more acute day-by-day,” legal official Li Weishou told a news briefing.
The lack of one unified law to tackle the problem had resulted in uneven enforcement, he said, and lists of suspects and terror groups would be published as the government saw fit.
The new law will help China’s international participation in fighting those who support the use of terror, Li said.
State media said the law will define “terrorist acts as those which are intended to induce public fear or to coerce state organs or international organizations by means of violence, sabotage, threats or other tactics”.
“These acts cause or aim to cause severe harm to society by causing casualties, bringing about major economic losses, damaging public facilities or disturbing social order,” the official Xinhua news agency said earlier this week.
“Instigating, funding or assisting with other means are also terrorist acts,” it said.
China says that militant groups allied with al Qaeda and Central Asian militants operate in its restive far western region of Xinjiang, seeking to set up an independent state called East Turkestan.
Many experts do not consider al Qaeda or its supposed ally in Xinjiang, the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement”, to have anywhere near the influence China portrays.
Courts in Xinjiang sentenced four people to death last month for violence in two cities over the summer in which 32 people were killed.
The government blamed the incidents in Kashgar and Hotan -- both in the majority Uighur southern part of Xinjiang -- on religious militants and separatists.
Many Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to Xinjiang, resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion, culture and language.
Xinjiang is strategically vital to China and Beijing has shown no sign of loosening its grip on the territory, which accounts for one-sixth of China’s land mass and holds rich deposits of oil and gas. It borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central Asia.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait