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China, Central Asia anti-terror ties eyed

June 14, 2011 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, June 14 (UPI) -- With Central Asia and China seeking to strengthen anti-terrorism ties this week, critics warn Beijing's domestic security policies are being exported abroad.

The annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is set for Wednesday in Astana, Kazakhstan, and is to be attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived in the city Sunday and was met by his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"The summit commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be a great meeting that sums up previous achievements and opens up the future," Hu said in a statement carried by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. "The meeting will be of great significance for the future development of the SCO."

Among those developments to implemented over the next decade, Hu said, will be closer cooperation to fight the SCO's "three evils": terrorism, religious extremism and separatism.

The SCO includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In preparation for Wednesday's summit, foreign ministers of the nations met last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. They agreed that maintaining regional stability, along with strengthening economic functions, deepening cultural and people-to people exchanges, would be top priorities, Xinhua reported.

Hu said before the visit China is prepared to work with all relevant parties to push for progress in combating international terrorism but warned that more needs to be done.

"The international community should follow the guidance of the Charter of the United Nations and other recognized international laws and rules, strengthen cooperation and fight against terrorism together," the Chinese leader said.

Hu asserted that political instability in parts of Asia and North Africa, coupled with the global financial slowdown, has made fighting terrorism more difficult.

But what form strengthened security cooperation between China and Central Asia will take is a matter of debate, speculation and worry by human rights groups that Beijing is spreading its politically tinged definition of who are "terrorists" to a broader stage.

Sheng Shiliang, a Sino-Russian relations expert for Xinhua, wrote in an analysis carried by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti conditions are right for "new mechanisms for regional security" to protect the economic gains accomplished through SCO efforts, such as oil and gas production and their associated pipelines and transportation networks.

Sheng wrote that the "the stage-by-stage construction of a collective security system in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region" could eventually be built by "pooling efforts with (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and participants in the six-party multilateral talks on North Korea."

But China's anti-terrorism efforts within its own borders worries human rights campaigners about the direction the SCO-backed regional security regime in Central Asia is taking under Beijing's guidance.

"Despite the international obligations of individual SCO member states, the SCO counter-terrorism framework has instead largely adopted China's domestic approach to counter-terrorism and expanded it throughout Central Asia," Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, contended in a report released last week.

Saying the SCO "can directly impact the fundamental rights and freedoms of almost a third of the world's population across three-fifths of the Eurasian continent," Hom criticized the organization's acceptance into "various bilateral and multilateral" forums despite ongoing and severe human rights abuses in its member nations.

Human Rights in China warned the SCO's "three evils"-based approach to security cooperation links "terrorism" to "separatism" and "extremism," terms Beijing "often applies to groups legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression, religion or association."

Topics: Hu Jintao
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