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Invocation of Terrorism and SCO Cooperation in Response to Question about Freedom of Travel Raises Serious Human Rights Concerns

May 6, 2011

On May 5, at a regular
press briefing
in the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), a reporter
asked MFA spokeswoman Jiang Yu to verify whether it was true, as reported, that
China pressured Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan into preventing individuals from going
to the United States to attend a conference. Instead of commenting on that specific
incident – she said she had not seen the reports – she responded by raising
the issue of terrorism, stating that terrorism is a threat to China and to Central
Asian states, and then discussing at length the imperative of anti-terrorism
cooperation among China and Central Asian states under the rubric of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The incident referred to in the question was the
obstruction by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan of the travel of Uyghur activists

from those states to Washington, D.C., to attend a conference on Uyghur rights
that included civil society representatives and distinguished guest speakers,
including U.S. Congressmen.

In answering a separate question about China’s anti-terrorism policy, Jiang
singled out ethnic Uyghurs in China, by referring to the forces that aimed at
“splitting up China” and emphasizing the need for the international community
to strike against “‘East Turkestan’ terrorist forces.” (HRIC’s
English translation
of the questions to and responses of MFA Spokesperson
Jiang Yu is provided below.)

The MFA representative took a question about Uyghur individuals being prevented
from attending a conference titled “The Future of Uyghur People in East Turkestan,”
and gave an answer about terrorism in the region. This response raises serious
concerns about whom the Chinese authorities consider to be terrorists, and about
the counter-terrorism policies of China and the other five SCO member states.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) is particularly concerned about
the following aspects of the MFA statement:

  • Invocation of terrorism in the context of a peaceful conference concerning
    Uyghurs suggests an approach to counter-terrorism that undermines the principle
    of non-discrimination, and compromises fundamental rights and freedoms of
    ethnic groups.
  • Jiang’s discussion of counter-terrorism cooperation within the SCO suggests
    that the Chinese government views the SCO as highly relevant to and involved
    in the actions of the Central Asian states. She highlighted the SCO’s goal
    of “combating the ‘Three Forces’” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism,
    which HRIC has identified in its whitepaper Counter-Terrorism
    and Human Rights: The Impact of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

    as an overbroad and problematic approach to counter-terrorism. She also stressed
    two SCO conventions that, as discussed in HRIC’s whitepaper, have significant
    potential to compromise human rights due to their expansive concepts of targeted
    behavior and other questionable provisions.
  • Jiang emphasized security cooperation within the SCO, in the context of
    “mega-events,” such as the Beijing Olympics, as well as anti-terrorism exercises.
    As HRIC detailed in 2008, however, security for the Beijing Olympic Games
    included crackdowns on human rights defenders, massive surveillance operations,
    and restrictions on peaceful dissent.1
    This approach – deemed a success by
    the Chinese government – is now being exported regionally to other SCO member
  • Additionally, as tracked in HRIC’s whitepaper, the SCO’s anti-terrorism
    exercises appear primarily designed to enforce social stability within regions
    where discontent over government policies is widespread, and to send a chilling
    message to ethnic groups. For example, SCO military and law enforcement exercises
    are regularly held within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, such as the
    “Tianshan 2” exercise that took place on May 6 in the city of Kashgar.

  • In Jiang’s discussion of the SCO’s international counter-terrorism cooperation
    and reference to regional frameworks, HRIC notes the conspicuous absence of
    any reference to the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted
    by the UN General Assembly in 2006. This international framework emphasizes
    “respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis
    of the fight against terrorism.”

In the lead-up to the tenth anniversary meeting of the Council of SCO Heads
of State on June 15, 2011, HRIC urges the SCO and its member states
to undertake a thorough assessment of their compliance with international human
rights obligations, particularly those that apply to counter-terrorism measures
This assessment should include consideration of the analysis and concrete recommendations
of HRIC’s whitepaper, specifically, the recommendations regarding best practices
in countering terrorism and best practices for intelligence cooperation advanced
by the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism. HRIC further urges the SCO
and its member states, as a matter of priority, to evaluate conformity of their
counter-terrorism measures with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and
address all inconsistencies.

Excerpts from the May 5, 2011 Routine Press Conference held by Ministry of Foreign
Affairs Spokesperson Jiang Yu

[Unofficial English Translation by Human Rights in China]

Q: Please talk about China’s anti-terrorism policy. Does the
killing of Bin Laden affect China’s anti-terrorism policy?

A: China is also a victim of terrorism. In order to achieve
the aim of splitting up China, some terrorist forces are carrying out a great
amount of terrorist activities inside China, seriously threatening the state
security of China and peace and stability in the region. To strike against “East
Turkestan” terrorist forces is an important component of the international anti-terrorism
struggle. Although international anti-terrorism cooperation has achieved considerable
progress, the international anti-terrorism situation is still grim and complex.
The international community ought to further strengthen its cooperation to jointly
prevent and strike against terrorism.

Q: According to reports, China has pressured Kazakhstan and
Kyrgyzstan into preventing some people from these countries from coming to the
United States to attend a certain conference. Please confirm.

A: I haven't seen these reports. Terrorism constitutes a threat
to the security and stability not only of China but also of Central Asian states.
Strengthening cooperation and jointly combating regional terrorism is an important
part of the cooperation between China and Central Asian states.

Let me take this opportunity to brief you on the state of anti-terror cooperation
between China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states.
In the ten years since the SCO was established, China and the other member states
have cooperated closely, and, through active cooperation in combating the “Three
Forces” [terrorism, separatism, and extremism] and maintaining regional stability,
have achieved many results: First, the competent authorities of member states
have held regular meetings, and researched and drafted cooperation documents,
including the Shanghai Convention
on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism
and the Convention
on Counter-Terrorism of the SCO
, creating a firm legal foundation for
anti-terror cooperation between China and other countries in the region. Second,
member states have effectively learned from the successful experience and model
of the security cooperation during the Beijing Olympics. This year, the security
cooperation for the [forthcoming] summit in Astana2
and the World University Games in Shenzhen3
are currently progressing smoothly. Third, the SCO, consulting the practices
of other international and regional organizations, regularly holds anti-terrorism
exercises to improve its anti-terrorism operations capabilities. Fourth, the
SCO has actively developed international anti-terrorism cooperation, and has
established cooperative relationships with ASEAN, the Commonwealth of Independent
States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and others.

I have just announced that the SCO member states will hold their regular Foreign
Ministers Council meeting, whose main task is to prepare for the SCO summit.
The foreign ministers will have a thorough exchange of views on issues of mutual
concern such as the international and regional situation, deepening pragmatic
cooperation in various areas among the member states, and strengthening the
SCO internal construction.

The original Chinese transcript of the May 5, 2011 routine press conference
is available
at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1. See, e.g., HRIC, “2008
Beijing Olympics: The Price of National Glorification
,” August 24, 2008;
HRIC, “Human Rights Situation
in China Worsens as Bush Calls for a More Open Society
,” August 7, 2008.

2. Translator’s note: SCO summit meeting, June 15, 2011. ^

3. Translator’s note: August 2011. ^

For more information on the human rights impact of the SCO,

For more information on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,

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