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China (Hong Kong and Macau)

China

Overview:  The PRC response to terrorism remained difficult to distinguish from the government and ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) suppression of peaceful activities that authorities deemed separatist or subversive in nature.  The PRC’s counterterrorism attention remained on ethnic Uyghur so-called extremists, specifically alleging that the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is the primary source of terrorism in Xinjiang.  The United States, however, has seen no credible evidence for more than a decade that the group still exists and removed ETIM from the Terrorist Exclusion List in November based on this lack of evidence.  The United States continued to list ETIM as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 to maintain compliance with its obligations under the UN 1267 Committee.  Beijing inaccurately labeled the “Turkistan Islamic Party” (TIP) as ETIM.  TIP is a violent extremist group active in Syria and Afghanistan that shares some characteristics with the PRC’s description of ETIM.  Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have faced extreme oppression at the hands of China’s authoritarian government, which has used counterterrorism as a pretext to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.  The PRC since 2017 has detained more than one million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups in internment camps, where officials subject them to torture, forced labor, persecution, and coercive family planning, among other abuses.  The PRC continued to expand law enforcement tools and enhance its military and counterterrorism capabilities to justify and improve its ability to carry out this repressive campaign, respond to threats faced as a result of the PRC’s increasing global economic footprint, and garner international support for its counterterrorism-related policies.

2020 Terrorist Incidents:  PRC officials maintain that no violent terrorist incidents have occurred in the country since 2016 owing to their Xinjiang policies.

Chinese citizens abroad were affected by terrorist attacks not specifically directed against PRC policies:

  • On February 6, Islamic State sympathizers in the Maldives stabbed three persons, including two Chinese citizens.  On November 2, a Chinese citizen was killed and another person of Chinese ethnicity injured by a gunman in a terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.  Four persons were killed and 23 injured in the Vienna attack.

International terrorist-related incidents targeting China and its interests also occurred in 2020 involving PRC infrastructure projects associated with the One Belt One Road initiative.

  • In October, four Pakistani military and private security personnel guarding Chinese facilities related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the One Belt One Road initiative were killed in an attack by Baloch separatists.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The PRC continued to advance and defend its policies on fighting terrorism, which included the use of political “re-education” camps in Xinjiang under the guise of vocational training and education centers.  Authorities forced  detainees to learn Communist Party ideology, Mandarin Chinese, and ideas to counter “extremist thinking.”  International media reported on the expansion of these camps and on the continued mass transfer of Uyghur workers both within Xinjiang and to other provinces in China to fill labor shortages, and described draconian detention conditions in the facilities, including torture.  A September State Council white paper on Xinjiang, however, lauded the PRC’s poverty alleviation efforts in Xinjiang as a successful model for combating terrorism.  Throughout the year, the PRC continued to enhance and develop its military and counterterrorism capabilities as well as leverage its domestic technology sector to bolster surveillance capabilities, including for counterterrorism goals.

In 2020, to meet various UNSCR requirements, the Chinese government began collecting Passenger Name Record data and has collected Advance Passenger Information data since 2019.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  The PRC is a member of FATF, APG, and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (EAG).  China served as FATF president from July 2019 to July 2020.  Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa (BRICS) regularly cooperate on the topic of terrorist financing and have proposed institutionalizing the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) BRICS Council.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The PRC continued to implement broad repressive campaigns in Xinjiang under the guise of countering what the Chinese government called extremism, including mass “re-education” and “vocational training” of Uyghurs and other Muslims.  The United States assesses the goal of these policies is to repress and Sinicize religious minorities.  CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address at the Third CCP Central Symposium on Work related to Xinjiang in September, in which he said the CCP should continue to promote the Sinicization of Islam in Xinjiang.  The PRC government’s broad definitions of terrorism, conflation of the exercise of freedom of religion or belief and violent extremism, as well as its unclear definition of “cyber terrorism,” continued to raise human rights concerns.  The Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices contains further information on the topic.

Regional and International Cooperation:  The PRC continued to promote the United Nations as the primary international forum for counterterrorism, where it actively advances a repressive approach to counterterrorism.  It engaged in a range of multilateral, regional, and bilateral fora, presenting itself as a global leader on counterterrorism.  China continued to work through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure to pursue counterterrorism cooperation, including joint border operations, drills, and youth deradicalization efforts.  In September, BRICS held a fifth Counterterrorism Working Group meeting and in November unveiled a new counterterrorism strategy.  In bilateral and multilateral fora, the PRC cited terrorism concerns to counter international criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and to justify repatriation requests and other law enforcement actions overseas.  The PRC engages through bilateral channels with a variety of governments to aggressively lobby the forcible return of Uyghur and other ethnic and religious minority asylum seekers who fled repression in Xinjiang, often labeling these individuals as terrorists or violent extremists.  During the year, units from the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police held CT drills with a range of countries, including the September Kavkaz-2020 multinational antiterror strategic exercise in Russia.

China is a member of the following organizations:

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum
  • The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
  • The East Asia Summit
  • The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Hong Kong

Overview:  A major part of Hong Kong’s CT cooperation with the United States centers on information sharing.  Hong Kong continued security and law enforcement cooperation with the United States through the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department’s joint implementation of the Container Security Initiative.  Hong Kong cooperated internationally on CT efforts through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations.

2020 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported terrorist incidents in Hong Kong in 2020.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Counterterrorism remained an operational priority for the Hong Kong Police Force.  The Police Counterterrorism Response Unit provides a strong deterrent presence, assisting police districts with CT strategy implementation and complementing the tactical and professional support of existing police specialist units such as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau, the Special Duties Unit, the Airport Security Unit, and the VIP Protection Unit.  In June, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security (NSL) in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  The NSL contains new offenses that carry criminal penalties of up to life imprisonment, including offenses related to organizing, planning, committing, participating in, or threatening enumerated “terrorist activities.”  The NSL has been widely criticized for its potential use against prodemocracy activists and other protestors in Hong Kong.

In 2018 the Hong Kong government set up the Inter-Departmental Counterterrorism Unit (IDCU) to strengthen overall CT efforts by monitoring global trends, reviewing and improving CT strategies in Hong Kong, developing specialized CT training, and optimizing emergency response plans.  The IDCU held its most recent annual exercise in March.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Hong Kong is a member of FATF and APG.  Hong Kong’s FIU, the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.

In July the Hong Kong Monetary Authority issued circulars that shared observations and recommendations to help industry develop sustainable efforts to cope with the evolving COVID-19 situation and minimize any potential negative effects on businesses that support AML/CFT measures.

In September the Securities and Futures Commission launched a three-month consultation on its proposals to amend AML/CFT guidelines.  The proposed amendments aim to facilitate the adoption of a risk-based approach to AML/CFT measures by the securities industry and to mitigate risks associated with cross-border correspondent relationships.

In November the Hong Kong government launched a three-month consultation on legislative proposals to enhance Hong Kong’s AML/CTF regime through the introduction of a licensing requirement for virtual asset services providers and a registration system for dealers in precious metals and stones.  The government aims to introduce a bill into the Legislative Council in 2021.

Countering Violent Extremism:  There were no changes to Hong Kong’s CVE programming in 2020.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The Presidential Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization ended U.S. government-sponsored capacity-building training programs for Hong Kong law enforcement in July.  Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 tripartite online meeting involving mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau to foster cooperation on AML/CFT was postponed until 2021.  Hong Kong is an APEC economy.

Macau

Overview:  A major part of Macau’s CT cooperation with the United States involves information sharing.  Under the Macau Public Security Police Force is the Police Intervention Tactical Unit (UTIP), whose main mission is CT operations.  UTIP is responsible for protecting important installations and dignitaries, and conducting high-risk missions, such as IED deactivation.  Macau cooperated internationally on CT efforts through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations.

2020 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported terrorist incidents in Macau in 2020.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  As a gambling center, Macau authorities are aware of the risks associated with junket promoters.  They have indicated they are continually taking the necessary steps to strengthen the regulatory framework for market entry and to intensify AML/CFT oversight.

In October the Macau government devised and published Law No. 14/2020 and Administrative Regulation No. 35/2020.  The new legislation created the Terrorism Crimes Alert Division under the framework of the Judiciary Police and empowered the new division to create an information system for combating terrorism and monitoring, alerting, and communicating information related to terrorism activities.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Macau is a member of APG.  Macau’s FIU, the Financial Intelligence Office (GIF), is a member of the Egmont Group.  The GIF’s Director was appointed as Co-Chair of the Asia/Pacific Joint Group by the International Anti-Money Laundering Organization in April.  The GIF also provided AML/CFT training sessions to Banco Comercial de Macau -, the Bank of Communications (Macau Branch), the Bank of China (Macau Branch), and Tai Fung Bank in 2020.

The Macau’s Interdepartmental AML/CFT Working Group, which was established in 2010 and currently consists of 15 government agencies, held two AML/CFT plenary meetings in June and December.  The Working Group is responsible for tracking the development of AML/CFT international standards and best practices, and formulating overall policies against money laundering, terrorism financing, and financing for WMD proliferation.  In the second plenary meeting, the Working Group formulated the Five-Year Strategic Plan for Anti-Money Laundering (2021-25) to further implement and reinforce the AML/CFT laws and regulations in the territory.

Countering Violent Extremism:  There were no changes to Macau’s CVE programming in 2020.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 tripartite online meeting among mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau to foster cooperation on AML/CFT was postponed until 2021.

In September the GIF visited the AML Bureau of the People’s Bank of China and the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center to strengthen cooperation and exchange.

In October the Macau government signed a Reimbursable Advisory Services Agreement Concerning Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Risks with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  This voluntary move asked the World Bank to assess the effectiveness of the Macau AML/CFT regime, including any threats and vulnerabilities from money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

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