China has seen a decline in violent terrorist acts, thanks to tougher security measures, but the country still faces grim terror threats because the number of attempted attacks remains high, senior security experts said on Monday.
The number of traditional terrorist acts — violent attacks involving or orchestrated by terrorist cells — dropped last year, according to nationwide public security data cited in a study report released on Monday by the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The numbers were not available.
The study was part of the Blue Book of Rule of Law, which was released on Monday and includes analysis of various issues last year in the fields of legislation and crime.
“China's tightened measures against terrorism have driven some suspects underground. And we see more cases of fabricating terrorist-related information and spreading terrorism propaganda,” said Huang Fang, the institute researcher who led the study.
The country's first comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Law, which took effect on Jan 1 last year, has improved the legal framework to better fight terrorist crimes, she said.
However, Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, warned that although there have been fewer violent terrorist attacks in the past year, the situation has not fundamentally improved.
“People should realize that more attacks have been foiled at the planning stage. We haven't seen a significant drop in the number of attempted attacks,” he said.
Li said terrorist-related activities are still underway in some regions of the country due to the continued penetration of extremism from abroad.
The report released on Monday also warned that the situation might become more serious, since overseas terrorist groups now have stronger influence in China and the connection between domestic and foreign terrorist groups has grown deeper.
In addition to traditional terrorist acts, China must give more importance to combating the spread of terrorist propaganda online and on social media, Li said. Such acts should be treated as a form of terrorism as dangerous as violent attacks, because much of the content targets young people and lures them into terrorist acts, he added.
According to the report, a considerable number of terrorist suspects arrested last year were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, many terrorist cells are formed among family members, it said.