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China passes controversial counter-terrorism law

Beijing: Chinese Parliament on Sunday passed its first counter-terrorism law that grants overarching powers to security agencies amid criticism from the US over privacy and freedom of speech.

National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee unanimously adopted the draft law earlier approved by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

"The new law comes at a delicate time for China and for the world at large - terror attacks in Paris, the bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt, and killings of hostages committed by Islamic State (IS) extremist group are alerting the world about an ever-growing threat of terrorism," state- run Xinhua news agency said.

The law grants overarching powers to security agencies. Earlier, China has appointed a top cop as its first new anti-terrorism czar to enhance coordination among all the security agencies specially in the volatile Xinjiang province where the security forces are battling militants of the al-Qaeda-backed East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

China said several ETIM militants from Xinjiang crossed over to Syria to fight along with IS and some of them returned home to carry out attacks in the country.

Xinjiang is on the boil due to unrest among its majority Uyghur Muslim population over the increasing settlements of members of Han community from other provinces of China.

The anti-terrorism law is also applicable to other provinces including Tibet which in the past witnessed over 120 self-immolations against tightening of security controls.

The law has attracted deep concern in Western capitals, not only because of worries it could violate human rights such as freedom of speech, but because of the cyber provisions. US President Barack Obama has said that he had raised concerns about the law directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Speaking after China's largely rubber-stamp parliament passed the law, Li Shouwei, deputy head of the parliament's criminal law division under the legislative affairs committee, said China was simply doing what other Western nations already do in asking technology firms to help fight terror.

"This rule accords with the actual work need of fighting terrorism and is basically the same as what other major countries in the world do," Li told media.

This will not affect the normal operation of tech companies and they have nothing to fear in terms of having “backdoors” installed or losing intellectual property rights, he added.

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