China's "counter-terrorism" law could threaten Tibetans and Uyghurs, says UN experts

22nd November 2019

UN experts have written to China, outlining their concerns over the 2016 law.


China's "counter-terrorism" law has been scrutinised by United Nations (UN) human experts. The experts have called for a review of the law, which has been in effect since 2016.

Tibet groups and human rights organisations have raised concerns in the past that the law gives overly broad definitions of “terrorism” and “extremism”. These concerns were echoed in a communication to China on 1 November 2019, from 10 UN Special Rapporteurs and two UN Working Groups. 

In the communications, the 10 experts describe the definitions of ‘terrorism’ and an ‘extremist crime’ within the law as “very vague and problematic”, noting that groups including "Muslim Uighurs, Buddhist Tibetans and Mongolians" could be criminalised for expressing their civic or religious identities. 

The UN experts add that: 

“the Counter-Terrorism Law and related practices raises serious concerns regarding increasing practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, absence of judicial oversight and procedural safeguards and restrictions of the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to education and the right to freedom of movement within an increasingly securitized environment, particularly for designated minorities, notably Uyghurs and Tibetans.”

It concludes by encouraging “a process of independent review”, so that the Chinese government can “ensure that the definition of terrorism contained in national law is appropriately narrow..."

This follows on from previous communication from the UN on November 2018 which expressed similar worries about minority ethnics in China. 

Free Tibet has been among the organisations that have raised concerns over the Chinese government’s broad use of “terrorism” to crack down on groups such as Tibetans. Free Tibet attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2019, where it held discussions with several UN special experts, including the Special Expert on Counter Terrorism, on China’s on-going nationwide crackdown on “underworld forces”.