China anti-terror law may restrict media reporting on attacks

An armed paramilitary policeman checks a mock hijacker during an anti-terrorism drill on plane hijacking, on a passenger jet at the Beijing Capital International Airport, in Beijing, China, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China may further restrict the right of media to report on details of terror attacks, state media reported on Tuesday, under a tough new law that could be passed before the end of the month. The draft anti-terrorism law has already attracted concern in Western capitals as it could require technology firms to install "backdoors" in products or to hand over sensitive information such as encryption keys to the government. The law is currently having another reading at the latest session of the standing committee for China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, which ends on Sunday. The official People's Daily said the law's new draft includes a provision that media and social media cannot report on details of terror activities that might lead to imitation, nor show scenes that are "cruel and inhuman". No details of hostages, how authorities have responded to terror incidents or personal details of those on the scene are allowed to be reported without approval by counter-terrorism authorities, the report added. Chinese state-run media already operates under strict controls when it comes to reporting on terrorism, and the government brooks no challenge to its official accounts of attacks or other incidents. It is not clear if the technology requirements remain in the new draft or how the final law could differ from the drafts. Officials say China faces a growing threat from militants and separatists, especially in its unruly Western region of Xinjiang. Hundreds have died in violence in the past few years in Xinjiang. Beijing blames the trouble on Islamist militants. Rights groups, though, doubt the existence of a cohesive militant group in Xinjiang and say the unrest mostly stems from anger among the region's Muslim Uighur people over restrictions on their religion and culture. China denies abusing anyone's rights in Xinjiang. The government looks poorly on anyone who seeks to challenge the official narrative of its response to the problems in Xinjiang or how it tackles terror attacks. In 2014, a Chinese court jailed for life the country's most prominent advocate for the rights of the Uighur people, economics professor Ilham Tohti. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)