Mon, Mar 14, 2016 - Page 1 News List

China makes pledge to confront ‘hostile forces,’ separatists

AP, BEIJING

China’s chief prosecutor yesterday said that battling “infiltration, subversion and sabotage by hostile forces” is a key priority this year, with terrorists, ethnic separatists and religious extremists all in his crosshairs.

In a speech to the annual session of the Chinese National People’s Congress, Cao Jianming (曹建明) also listed combating cybercrime and ensuring national sovereignty in cyberspace as items topping a list of this year’s priorities.

Prosecutors are also to continue to follow up on cases brought to as part of an almost three-year-old nationwide anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s watchdog agency, Cao said.

Although he identified no specific groups or individuals as threats, Beijing has in the past cited a long list of “hostile forces” it accuses of seeking to end communist rule and plunge China into chaos, division and economic ruin.

Those include agents of foreign governments, civil society groups who challenge the party’s absolute authority and religious dissenters, such as the underground church and the banned Falun Gong meditation sect. Those campaigning for ethnic rights are also frequently cited, including exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama and advocates for the Turkic Muslim Uighur minority from the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

In an accompanying address, Chinese Supreme People’s Court President Zhou Qiang (周強) said Chinese courts last year convicted 1,419 people of national security and terrorism crimes that carry potential death sentences. That compares with 712 people sentenced for incitement to separatism, terrorism and related charges in 2014, before last year’s passage of a sweeping new national security law.

Fighting corruption also remains a priority, with prosecutors handling 4,490 cases involving more than 1 million yuan (US$154,000) last year, up 22.5 percent from 2014, Cao said in his report. That was out of a total of 54,249 officials investigated, he added.

Those prosecuted for graft last year include 22 former officials at the ministerial level or above, including Zhou Yongkang (周永康), a former member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee, who was sentenced to life in prison for corruption.

Such cases are referred to prosecutors only after suspects have been thoroughly investigated by the CCP’s Central Committee for Discipline Inspection. The body this month said it dished out demotions and other punishments to nearly 300,000 officials last year.

However, Cao said prosecutors have yet to indict 41 officials of ministerial rank or above under investigation for corruption, including former United Front Work Department head Ling Jihua (令計畫), a key aide to former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Ling has been under investigation for at least 15 months since being removed from his position in December 2014.

Since October 2014, China has brought about the return of 124 corruption suspects who had fled abroad to 34 different nations, including some who had turned themselves in, Cao said.

Details were not given on new measures to prevent Chinese Internet users from accessing overseas Web sites, something China insists is its innate right in order to protect its “national cyberspace sovereignty.”

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