One would think that the last thing people would worry about in an authoritarian communist country like China would be the loss of human rights. But things have been changing in the PRC as liberalization of the Chinese economy, a growing middle class and the communications revolution have resulted in much greater freedom, wealth, property and legal rights. The Chinese government may be looking to curb some of these freedoms by playing the Islamic terrorism card, from its frontier area of Xinjiang, to pass tough new counter-terrorism laws. Human Rights Watch issued a press release warning against the possibility that these measures may do more than fight terrorism. The very vague definition of terrorism, expansion of state surveillance powers to enforce complete digital surveillance and targeting NGOs will harm the human rights of Chinese citizens.
China’s use of this concept of “never let a crisis go to waste” is by no means unique to them. Even liberal western democracies that would consider themselves the bastions of freedom have used terrorist acts to bring restrictive laws in place. The USA Patriot Act may be the most well known and even though it has seen some opposition, the law has been in place for over 13 years. Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, etc. have all used the Islamic terror threat to beef up their counter-terrorism laws and security infrastructure. HRW may have issued similar press releases in these cases but we are not sure how persistent or effective they have been in preserving the human rights and freedoms of all people.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has concerns about new Chinese terror legislation
“The draft counterterrorism law states that “counter terrorism work shall be conducted in accordance with the law” and that “human rights shall be respected and guaranteed” (art. 6). But the 106-article draft makes clear the government’s intent to establish a counterterrorism structure with enormous discretionary powers, define terrorism and terrorist activities so broadly as to easily include peaceful dissent or criticism of the government or the Communist Party’s ethnic and religious policies, and set up a total digital surveillance architecture subject to no legal or legislative control.” (Human Rights Watch)
The terror attacks in Paris seem to have woken up law enforcement authorities in several European countries as Islamic terrorists have been arrested in Belgium, France and Germany. The epicenter of the recent counter terrorism action was Belgium where two terrorists were killed in raids as security services moved in believing that terrorist attacks on Belgian police and citizens were imminent. Belgian prosecutors are saying that terrorists planned to conduct multiple attacks against police officers both on the streets and also attacks on some police stations. Many of those arrested are believed to have previously traveled to fight in Syria and were under surveillance.
Though it is unclear whether these perpetrators had any direct relations with the Paris terrorists, this type of jihadi terrorism in Europe has long been feared by security experts. Previous arguments about the fractured European society, immigration, muslim no-go-zones, ghettoization of many European cities, radical preaching, etc., which were and are still considered non-politically correct arguments, are again being brought to light. The copycat effect from Paris is likely also in play as those with similar ideologies and plans, would look to maximize the effect of the terror, on the populace.
Belgian police and special forces conducted raids against Islamic terrorists
He earlier told a news conference that the group, some of whom had recently returned from Syria, was “on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks to kill police officers on public roads and in police stations.”
Police found four Kalashnikov rifles, explosives, ammunition and communications equipment during the raids, along with police uniforms.
Jihadist Twitter accounts later identified the two dead men as Radwan Haqawi and Tareq Jadoun and published what it said was a photo of them in Syria. Belgian authorities did not confirm their identities. (Expatica BE)
As was the case in Paris, the discovery and use of military grade weapons may come as a shock to many who are told that guns are tightly controlled in Europe. This may be true for the average citizen, but criminals (and by that extension terrorists) have never had problems acquiring deadly weapons.
The tragic attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris have brought terrorism to the worldwide forefront. Lost in this news has been a tragedy that is taking place in the town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria. After overrunning the military base used by a multinational military force, Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad) fighters are reported to have razed the town – burning it and killing the population with no mercy. Estimates range as high as 2,000 dead in what would be the largest massacre by this Islamist terrorist group. The attack started on January 3rd but details are still sketchy as the Nigerian government, which is in the midst of preparing for an upcoming presidential election, is keeping a very tight lid on information about this most recent Boko Haram attack and the ongoing security crisis they have been facing in the north.
Islamic terrorists from Boko Haram attack Baga, Nigeria
“On 4 January we spoke to a man who had walked for two days through the bush, eventually getting a lift to the relative safety of the biggest city in the area, Maiduguri, on a lorry. “There was shooting from every corner of the headquarters of the multinational task force,” he tells me, adding that the exchange of fire lasted hours.
Then there are more testimonies from witnesses who say the military base was overpowered and then the gunmen started killing civilians in Baga town. But every witness we speak to is fleeing for their life. They are not hanging around Baga to check exactly what’s happening so it is hard to be sure we are getting facts.” (BBC News)
The last three days have been chaotic, dramatic and deadly for France. It started on Wednesday morning when two masked gunmen forced their way into the offices of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo and massacred 12 people, including one policeman and injured numerous others. In a related incident another policewoman was killed on Thursday and then today, four innocent shoppers and three (of the four) perpetrators were also killed. All in all, a low point in recent French history as the “homegrown Islamic terrorist” struck at the heart of France. Cherif and Said Kouachi were the Charlie Hebdo murderers and were killed north-east of Paris. Amedy Coulibaly is suspected of killing the policewoman on Thursday and killed four shoppers at Hyper Cacher, a kosher (Jewish) grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris. Initial reports were that he had an accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene but there is no information on whether she was killed or escaped or even part of the supermarket murders.
For now, this ended today. There will be a lot of analysis of this tragedy, some blow-back in France, a lot of condemnation from around the world – but the question of how to tackle Islamic terrorism within free, liberal democracies will continue to prevail. The radical Islamists tend to use liberal laws that will extend their agendas, while preaching preaching that their religion supersedes all other rules and laws of their countries. France has a lot of “baggage” when it comes to its former colonies, especially Algeria and with it Islam, that will make things harder in the wake of these deadly terrorist attacks.
The 72 hour terror siege of France
“By attacking the freedom of expression, the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo killings – and, separately, the murderers of a young policewoman – struck a raw nerve that brought the people, this time united, into the streets with the sympathies of the rest of the world firmly behind them in support.” (Euronews)