Posted on 17 April 2008.
We wrote six years ago that Iraq and Afghanistan was mere foreplay. The real target was China as defined in our most popular article on this site The CIA connection….. The events of the past few weeks have shown that to be true. After a decade of RAW involvement in Tibet, the Indians now wating for the other shoe to fall in China.
The other shoe of course has been created, trained and polished in India’s Airforce base in Tajikistan. Has India been thrown out of Tajikistan? Why was Russia angry at India? All American and Indian media has now jumped on the bandwagon on Tibet and Xinjiang.
India vs. Pakistan–Gwador vs. Chabahar. Spy vs. Spy: Kabul, London, Delhi, Islamabad and Swat. Taliban prepare for Spring. This story will continue. After the attempted destabilization of Pakistan, now the forces will concentrate on Iran and China.
We wrote this article in 2008, and are recently updating it. The Anti-China forces have had years to coordinate the events. The actual rioting was supposed to have been coordinated with the the Tibetian terrorists. The Rebya gang is a few months too late but surely she was able to put on a good show.
In 2008 this was news–not reported in the mainstream media. Today it is simply a reflection of multiple stories posted on the front pages of Indian and American newspapers. However the main theme of our article still remains the same. The focus on the Ughuirs is part and parcel of the US policy to attack Iraq, occupy Afghanitan, marginalize Iran, destabilize Pakistan and then threaten China. This was the PNAC–the plan for a new American century. The name fell into disrepute and the PNAC has now changed it to the non-sensational name of Foreign Policy Institute. However the moves put in motion by the Neocons are on autopilot.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are hostage to plans made a decade ago. President Obama wants to change US policy towards China is self evident. However RAW is playing its game. Bharat has two bases in Tajikistan. From the loft it has been sowing seeds of dissent in China.
We have put together an anthology of Anti-China articles to emphacize the fact that the Western media has been planning the Xinjiang riots for years.
April 17, 2008, Restive Xinjiang: China’s Next Trouble Spot After Tibet? By REUTERS Filed at 8:10 p.m. ETKHOTAN, China (Reuters) – The two young women trying on headscarves at a dusty market stall have heard of the recent unrest in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, but they say the same could never happen here in China’s border region of Xinjiang.
A suicide bomb attempt on a plane from the restive western region of Xinjiang in China en route to the home of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing highlights a key security dilemma for Beijing: the Olympics have become a stage to showcase political grievances and a challenge for the host to combat violent political agendas.
While the Tibetan riots capture the attention of the Western media, Chinese officials say Uyghur militants are entering the far western province of Xinjiang – particularly across the isolated Pamir Mountains in the south that separate China from Tajikistan and Afghanistan – from training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The well-funded and well-schooled militants allegedly obtain money and plans directly from sponsors and from their involvement in smuggling opium and heroin from Central and Southeast Asia.
Uyghurs are the majority ethnic group in Xinjiang and also have a large diaspora community in the Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the West. While there is no uniform Uyghur agenda, the desired outcome by groups that use violence is broadly a separate Uyghur state, called either East Turkestan or Uyghuristan, which lays claim to a large part of western China and some territory in neighboring Central Asian republics. As with many of these disputes, the root causes of the problem are a complex mix of history, ethnicity, and religion, fueled by poverty, unemployment, social disparities, and political grievances.
Tajikistan map Indian base-Indian Consulates-dens of Inequity
The Uyghur Diaspora community portrays the ongoing incidents as the oppressed Uyghur community versus an oppressive and unaccountable Chinese government, but reality lies somewhere in between. While it is true that Uyghurs are at a disadvantage in China, it is also a fact that a small number of Uyghur militants are linked into the transnational Islamist network contaminating the image of the majority of the Uyghur movement. The Chinese government’s aversion to giving media attention to terrorism is a reaction to the modern media obsession with covering terrorist events, which – like many experts – Beijing believes contributes to terrorism’s effectiveness.
There are also well-known links with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and perhaps lesser known links to current camps north of Kabul. Unfortunately, some Uyghur militants in Xinjiang and the diaspora community have linked into the Islamist network, which operates within a corridor that overlaps drug trafficking routes and facilitates the movement of militants, weapons and explosives.
Some in the Uyghur community see the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to draw attention to their causes, whether it is nationalist activists nonviolently or violently agitating for a Uyghur state, or the cultural community asking for more opportunities within the Chinese state or the militant community looking to the Islamist network to further their cause – this is a thin but bold line to draw between these groups for the Chinese government. The Jamestown Foundation . China confronts its Uyghur threat By Elizabeth Van Wie Davis
After controlling most of Afghanistan, the insurgents target supplies from Tough lessons in geography
AfPak countercurrents beyond the Oxus to AfPakAzUzbKazTurkKyr-istan
No Chinese can forget the history of China during the dark ages of colonialism. The land was broken up into little pieces and were it not for Sun Yet Sen and Mao Ze Dung, China would never have become one country. Manchiria would be a Japanese client state, and the areas bordering Hong Kong would continue to be a British domain. Eastern Turkistan would have either been taken over by Russia or become independent as a subservient or client state. In either case Ughuiristan would not be part of China. Similarly if Pakistan had not helped China by giving it 5000 square miles of territory it liberated from Bharat, Tibet would either have become part of Bharat of it too would have been independent like Bhutan. When Deng Xio Peng opened up China, he knew well that there were certain risks of trading with the West. The return on investment looked good a few decades ago. Prosperity versus integrity should never be a zero sum choice. But for China it seems that prosperity and growth have created problems for the Middle Kingdom.
Four recent incidents highlight the problem for China regarding Uyghur groups: First, a January 5, 2007, Chinese raid on a training camp in Xinjiang that killed 18 militants and one policeman and led to the capture of 17 suspects and the seizure of explosives. The raid seemingly provided new evidence of ties to “international terrorist forces” . Apparently an hour-long video entitled “Jihad in Eastern Turkestan” was found in the operation. Mentioned in the video was the book The Call for Global Islamic Resistance by al-Suri, which includes China as a target for jihad. The Jamestown Foundation . China confronts its Uyghur threat By Elizabeth Van Wie Davis
The map shows the Indian Consulates i Afghanistan that are responsible for much of the terror in Pakistan and China.
- Indian Consulates-dens of inequity in Afghanistan supporting terror in Pakistan
The propaganda about Al-Qaeda notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that RAW has been active in Afghanistan and running the show under the nose of Mr. Karzai.
The video, believed to be the work of the overseas-based East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), now internationally identified as a terrorist group, illustrates Uyghur militants displaying their weapons and combat training prowess with rocket-propelled grenades, M-16s, AK-47s, detonators and small rockets. It was obviously inspired by the transnational Islamist network.
In a dramatic conclusion, the video showcases the faces of their enemies – the Chinese leadership . Moreover, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, the prominent al-Qaeda leader, also mentioned China in a speech he made in December 2006. Clearly there are some militants that have decided to take an extremist stance against China and it is not a great stretch for them to look at the Olympics as a possible venue to showcase their cause.
In the second incident, almost exactly a year later, the Chinese police raided an apartment in Urumqi and killed two Uyghurs during the ensuing shoot-out on January 27, 2008. Fifteen Uyghurs were arrested and, according to the official report, five police officers were injured when three homemade grenades were thrown. Chinese authorities claim that the raid had uncovered materials indicating plans to attack the Beijing Olympics. More facts on this raid will likely be forthcoming over the course of the next year.
The third incident involves a failed female suicide attack apparently planned and implemented in a Uyghur diaspora community. China Southern Airlines Flight CZ6901 left Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, on March 7, 2008, and made an emergence landing in Lanzhou, Gansu, where two passengers – a man and a woman – were taken into custody, both carrying Pakistani passports. The Jamestown Foundation . China confronts its Uyghur threat By Elizabeth Van Wie Davis
Uzbekistan and the Central Asia Republics Uzbekistan pressured the IMU is scared of Taliban reprisals on supplies to Kabul Anti-Occupation forces choke US Afghan war Reality check on War in Afghanistan The implications of the IMU activity in Pakistan
There are long term implications of Bharat’s actions in Xinjiang. It will push China closer to Pakistan. These actions will surely deter US and European companies from doing business in Bharat. The fraying US Bharati relationship may be exacerbated by Delhi’s whining. Russia and Brazial certainlywill not want to deal with Delhi. Washington has a choice between Delhi and Beijing. Beijing holds about $1 Tirllion worth of US T-Bills. Delhi owns none. While Tata may own names that lose $500 million per year, it has nothing to show for the name. If push comes to shove, Washington will not antagonize China. Neither will Russia. Japan has been neutral all these years, and will stay that way. Delhi’s absurd policies may even push the US closer to China.
Nineteen-year-old Guzalinur Turdi, an ethnic Uyghur woman who spent a significant amount of time in Pakistan, confessed to attempting to ignite a flammable substance, perhaps petrol, syringed into a beverage can, in an attempt to blow up the plane. She aroused the suspicions of the crew and passengers when she came out of the toilet smelling of petrol to pick up a second can after the first can failed to ignite. The man arrested with her is from Central Asia and his age is estimated to be in the 30s. A third suspect, a Pakistani, detained a week later, admitted that he had masterminded, instigated and helped carry out the attack.
Pakistan is one of several key locations for militant diaspora communities and has also seen the assassination of Chinese nationals by Uyghurs. For instance, three Chinese nationals working just outside of Peshawar were killed and another seriously wounded as militants fired at the Chinese nationals from two cars, while fellow militants in the third car filmed the action shouting religious slogans; the film was sent to Chinese authorities by Uyghur militants warning that attacks would continue against Chinese in Pakistan if it did not change its policy in Xinjiang.
Pakistani officials suggest that nearly a thousand Uyghur militants from Xinjiang region have made their way to Waziristan , not far from where US intelligence agencies believe Osama bin Laden is sheltered. The airliner suicide attack, by no means coincidental, occurred on the eleventh anniversary of a bus explosion claimed by ETIM, in Beijing near Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and both happened during the National People’s Congress (NPC) annual session. The carefully planned attack, from using a young Uyghur woman to boarding through the less scrutinized first class, was designed to deliver a clear warning to the Chinese government as the world watched the lead up to the Beijing Olympics.
The Grand Bargain? Pakistan key to Afghan Great Game
The fourth and most recent incident was a pair of protests in the market town of Hotan, Xinjiang, around March 23. One protest was apparently sparked by the death in custody of a prominent local businessman, Mutallip Hajim, and the other protest centered on a proposed headscarf ban in the workplace. While the original protests were based on specific incidents that have widespread appeal among the Uyghur cultural community, the government alleges that several dozen Uyghur militants distributed leaflets calling for demonstrators to follow the lead of the Tibetans in protesting on the eve of the Olympics.
Some of those arrested were released after being “educated”, according to Fu Chao, a local government spokesman, but those determined to be agitators were kept in custody. The demonstrations are indicative of the widespread dissent in Xinjiang’s Uyghur community and how quickly that dissent can become explosive with only a little agitation, although it is not clear in this set of protests whether the agitators were Uyghur militants or Uyghur national activists.
The incidents, while indicative of both a small but dedicated number of Uyghur militants and a wider sense of oppression and discontent among the Uyghur community, are countered by the most heavily protected Olympics yet. The International Olympic Committee is overseeing the Beijing Games, where the security force will be large. Beijing has nearly 100,000 police, supplemented by paramilitary outfits, private security guards and the country’s military.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) new Olympics unit, comprising army, navy and air force personnel, is responsible for border control – to prevent terrorists and others infiltrating during the Games – as well as responding to terrorist attacks. It is enlisting a citizens’ force of a half million civic-minded Beijing citizens, either wearing red or blue Olympic security armbands, who will monitor streets, neighborhoods and public places.
Tellingly, Xi Jinping, heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, is in charge of the overall Olympic effort, signaling how seriously the government takes the success of the Games. Professor Zhang Jiadong, counter-terrorism expert at Fudan University, suggested that it is not unexpected for small Uyghur groups based in Xinjiang to undertake some limited action. Interpol’s secretary-general, Ronald Noble, indicated in Beijing in September 2007 that the absence of a terrorist incident or serious criminal activity would be an “important measure” of the success of the Games, and the agency’s website says that the Beijing Games are a “prime theoretical target for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups”.
The folly of the UKs “Charge of the Light Brigade” in Afghanistan AGAIN reminds us of Britian’s previous defeat in Afghainstan. Unfortunately the lessons of the unmitigated disaster of “Auckland’s Folly”, (First Anglo-Afghan War 1838–42) have not been taught to the Oxbridge students.
But both Interpol and the International Olympic Committee have said thus far that they are satisfied with China’s security preparations, and the incidents so far indicate a tangible threat and a real counter effort.
1. Kenneth George Pereire, “The East Turkestan Islamic movement in China: Uighur discontent must be addressed to stem the tide of the jihadi movement in China,” Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (June 23, 2006).
2. Realities of the Conflict – Between Islam and Unbelief Full Transcript of Zawahiri Tape December 20, 2006 As-Sahab Media, Dhu Qa’dah 1427 AH/December 2006 CE, obtained by Laura Mansfield International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
3. Fong Tak-ho, ‘Terror’ attack a warning shot for Beijing, Asia Times Online, March 14, 2008.
(This article first appeared in The Jamestown Foundation . China confronts its Uyghur threat By Elizabeth Van Wie Davis
Despite their confidence, tensions have bubbled to the surface in Xinjiang, much to the dismay of China’s leaders who are anxious to maintain stability in the oil-rich region which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and is home to about 8 million Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking people. “All the ethnicities in China are one big family,” said one of the women, 19, as she studied herself in an orange headscarf in the mirror, debating whether to buy it.
It’s a line that echoes the statements of China’s Communist leaders in Beijing, but the sentiment felt hollow when the wave of anti-government protests erupted in its ethnic Tibetan areas last month.
Then came a demonstration in Khotan, an Uighur-majority town on the edge of Xinjiang’s forbidding desert, where hundreds marched through the weekly bazaar in late March in a protest the city government blamed on ethnic separatists.
The demonstration, which was by all accounts a peaceful and isolated incident, nonetheless touched on the worst fears of China’s leaders: the prospect Tibet’s unrest could have a contagion effect on Xinjiang, its other sensitive border region, ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.
But analysts say Xinjiang is not likely to be the next Tibet despite distrust between Han Chinese and Uighurs and disgruntlement among Uighurs over restrictions on their religion and culture.
“The broader perspective on this is that these kind of local demonstrations happen all over China — if the security figures are to be believed, by the tens of thousands every year,” said one Western analyst, who declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
“It’s become almost a standard way of dealing with local issues, a pressure release, but of course it’s much harder for Uighurs to do this because they’re branded separatists.”
The road to Khotan, flanked on either sides by unbroken stretches of desolate desert, is free of the kind of security personnel that has flooded into Tibetan areas since the protests began there in March.
At its weekly market, merchants flog everything from sides of mutton to delicate threads of saffron, much as they have for generations.
Residents say there is plenty of discontent, but not many outlets to express it.
“I could guarantee that kind of thing couldn’t happen here,” said Ahyiguzai, a 17-year-old Uighur resident, referring to the Lhasa riot.
“People have those feeling of dissatisfaction sometimes, but they wouldn’t dare do anything. Those kinds of things are resolutely not allowed,” she said.
Analysts say fears of separatist sentiment and the prospect of radical Islam making inroads have meant that Beijing’s grip on the region is especially tight.
In its annual report, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China said that religious restrictions on Uighurs remained “severe” and cited increased control over Muslim pilgrimages and vetting of the content of sermons.
But rather than having the assimilationist effect the government seeks, those policies could be having the opposite impact, driving the Uighur community to close ranks.
“The policies are actually widening the gap between Uighurs and the rest of the population,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“People build up barriers to protect their ethnic identity from the attempt by the state to remodel it.”
Everywhere in Khotan and nearby towns there are signs of a community that is increasingly devout, an anomaly in officially atheist China.
Uighur women wear headscarves and, once married, many also cover their faces, leaving only their eyes visible.
Many residents in Khotan, as well as Yarkand and Kashgar, Uighur towns stretching along the ancient Silk Route, express a desire to make the pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, and unhappiness with government restrictions on the number of pilgrims permitted to do so.
China says the community poses a significant terror threat, and points to a January raid on a group that Xinjiang’s Communist Party boss described as a “terrorist gang” as well as a foiled plot to attack a jet from the region bound for Beijing.
Last week, Chinese authorities announced the detention of 45 East Turkestan “terrorist” suspects, and foiled plots to carry out suicide bombings and kidnap athletes to disrupt the Olympics. Uighur activists say the terror plots have been fabricated.
The United States listed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which advocates for a separate state in Xinjiang, as a terrorist organization in 2002.
Rights groups say China exaggerates the threat of militant activity in the region to exert greater control, and analysts say those exaggerations mean that Beijing’s intelligence on the issue tends to be unreliable.
Still, global fears about Islamic radicalism may limit the kind of international support that has helped the Tibet protests.
Uighurs also lack a figurehead such as the Dalai Lama to press their cause abroad, or an obvious catalyst for protest, such as the March 10 anniversary of the uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet that sparked the marches there.
But most of all there simply may be no space in Uighur society for widespread dissent to bubble to the surface.
“Even for small things you hear about people being taken away,” said Ahyiguzai. “So any kind of bigger incident I don’t think could happen here.” (Editing by Megan Goldin)
When the 2008 Summer Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing seven years ago, hope arose that China’s new-found status as a modern, world power and position in the world media spotlight would prompt increased tolerance and democracy nationwide. Clearly, that optimism has been dashed by the turmoil in Tibet.
Stellar economic performance and reforms, viewed sanguinely by the West as a sure route to liberalization, have occurred in China devoid of political reform. China’s use of brutal force and massive arrests against Tibetan protestors bear witness to this lack of progress. Indeed, China today stands revealed as one of the worst perpetrators of human rights violations and religious repression in the world.
Among those singled out for similar harshness and violence is a portion of China’s 30-million-strong Muslim community: the Islamic jihadists of the northwestern province of Xinjiang and surrounding areas. With Tibet in mind, the West may be tempted to view this decades-long unrest in Central Asia as yet another example of Chinese aggression and expansionism against a beleaguered population seeking independence. Yet, such a view is shortsighted and dangerous. For, in truth, the Islamic Jihadists of China’s Xinjiang are linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. Their terrorist methods and ideology are of a piece with the larger Islamic Jihadist goal to overthrow existing governments and install a religious theocracy. They, in fact, represent the Chinese battlefront of the worldwide Islamic Jihad.
China’s Muslim Population
Inaccessibility to China’s far flung regions and the exclusion of questions about religion in the last three national censuses make it difficult to obtain accurate figures about the Chinese Muslim population. But it is estimated at around 30 million, the second largest religious group in China after Buddhists. About 20 million are Hui, concentrated mostly in northwestern China. Another 8.5 million are Uyghurs who reside in Xinjiang province.
The Hui, culturally similar to the majority Han Chinese, follow Islamic dietary laws and some customs of Muslim dress but have engaged in only limited jihadist activity. Evidence exists of uprisings in two Hui villages, as well as some protest activity against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. However, discrimination and economic deprivation against the Uyghurs and their push for a separate state have made for more extensive and organized jihadist activities by the militant, Uyghur Muslims throughout Central Asia. The nature of this activity — the extent to which it is an uprising for a separatist state or supports a pan-Islamist agenda — is difficult to assess given Communist China’s history of repression of religious groups, rampant human rights abuses and lack of a free press, but some conclusions can be made.
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The desire for an independent Uyghur state is a fairly recent development, dating from the 1930′s, but the Uyghurs themselves are a historically nomadic people of Turkic Indo-European origin who can be traced back to the 700s.
The province in which they live, Xinjiang, is large and sparsely populated, representing one-sixth of China’s total land mass. It borders Tibet, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyryzstan, Tajikstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Indian state of Kashmir. Xinjiang is rich in oil, gas and mineral deposits. It also has numerous military installations and, until 1996, nuclear testing facilities, giving it significant and strategic military importance to China.
The Uyghurs have a separate language, culture, religion and identity from the dominant Han, who are deemed the “true,” ethnic Chinese. Uyghurs hold a multiplicity of identities, including Muslim, Uyghur, Turk or Chinese and have historically been opposed to Han or majority Chinese rule. The Uyghurs in Xinjiang maintain an informal ethnic apartheid. They view the Chinese as inferior occupiers, equate Confucianism and Buddhism with idolatry, and frequent their own stores and restaurants. An estimated 23,000 mosques exist in the region, with many small neighborhood facilities, some financed by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
According to Igor Rotar, a Central Asia correspondent for The Jamestown Foundation, Uyghurs “tend to be more zealous Muslims than their Central Asian neighbors. The majority of local, married women wear burqas, which is quite rare in Central Asia, and middle-aged men prefer to have beards.” Rotar says a Uyghur Muslim in Xinjiang explained to him that “In the Quran it is written that a Muslim should not live under the authority of infidels, and that is why we will never reconcile with the Chinese occupation.” China’s restrictive policy on family size is also a point of contention in this community.
In direct contrast to this view, visiting Associated Press reporter, William Foreman, recently observed, “Most Uighurs practice a moderate form of Islam. The men wear ornate skullcaps, or “doppi,” while most women favor head scarves but rarely cover their faces. Many can be seen dressed in tight skirts or stylish hip-hugging designer jeans and high heels.”
As a non-Han people, Uyghurs have been viewed by the Chinese as inferior and portrayed as untrustworthy, shiftless, warring troublemakers. They have been discriminated against in employment and are victims of economic deprivation in an underdeveloped area. Drug use, particularly opium and hashish, is rampant and has added to the hopelessness and poverty. A high incidence of AIDS due to heroin injection appears to have attracted little government intervention to combat the problem.
The Push for Uyghur Independence
In the 1930s, Uyghur separatists proposed a constitution for a Uyghur republic that referenced Islam and shariah law but focused primarily on economic development and political freedom. The occupation of northern Xinjiang in 1949 by China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, was viewed as a hopeful sign because China’s leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, pledged an end to “Great Han chauvinism.” In reality, Chinese Communists valued Xinjiang, not for egalitarian reasons, but as a strategic and natural, resource-rich asset. Meanwhile, the Han-dominated, Communist Party asserted a unified, Chinese identity and sought to eliminate the distinct
Uyghur culture and history.
During the Cold War, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, surrounded by the Chinese and the USSR, had limited options for self-determination. In the 1980s when restrictions eased in China against ethnic minorities and religious practices, the Uyghurs spoke out about discrimination and injustice. They reasserted their demands for a homeland, which continue to this day. An active Uyghur exile community in Central Asia, estimated at 400,000, has sought to draw attention to the plight of the Uyghurs and their quest for a separate state.
The Uyghur-Jihadist Link
Motivated by legitimate desires for independence, militant Turkic Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang have, since the 1970′s, engaged in terrorist activities. These include killing police and military officers, robbing banks, rioting and bombing. The Uyghurs in Xinjiang, members of the 400,000-strong Uyghurs in the diaspora and other Islamist groups in Central Asia have become part of a pan-Islamic movement that developed since the mid-1980′s and includes terrorist activity that intensified after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Islamists in Xinjiang have reportedly received financial support and training from the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and the Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan.
The potential for the Islamization of the region and the ability of Islamists to capitalize on the existing conflict between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government is a real concern to the Communist government.
The strongest militant Islamist groups in the region include the East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), allegedly linked to Al Qaeda. The IMU renamed itself the Islamic Party of Turkistan and publicly declared that it seeks to create an Islamic state across Central Asia and expand its recruitment efforts throughout the region. For traditional Uyghur separatists, these groups represent a source of wealthy supporters who offer funding, weapons support and terrorist training. They also help buttress and reinforce the global Islamist movement into China. For example, in 1989, Al Qaeda set up a base in China with links to the ETIM and the IMU.
Xinjiang’s porous border with Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan facilitates the conducting of terrorist training just outside of China, as well as the movement of weapons, explosives and terrorist operatives. It also enables the indoctrination of Muslims in extremist ideology out of the reach of China.
China reports that the ETIM has ties to Central Asia Uyghur Hezbollah in Kazakstan and that 1,000 Uyghurs were trained by Al Qaeda. They maintain that 600 of them escaped to Pakistan, 300 were caught by U.S. forces on the battlefield in Afghanistan and 110 returned to China and were caught. At the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan, U.S. forces did, in fact, report that 15 Uyghurs were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
According to B. Raman, former head of the Counterterrorism Division of India’s external intelligence agency, the Uyghurs have been approached by the Hizb ut-Tahrir, a political party whose goal is to unite all Muslim countries in a unitary Islamic state. The Hizb ut-Tahrir in Pakistan and in other parts of Central Asia, has sought to use the Uyghurs to set up sleeper cells in Xinjiang.
Home-Grown Uyghur Terrorism
However, it would be inaccurate to characterize the Uyghurs as completely influenced by outside jihadists, for, their own history is rife with violence in the name of Islam. The first major uprising of Uyghur Muslims took place in Northwestern China in 1990 with a series of protests. As a result, China deployed troops and began to conduct military exercises in the region.
In 1996, following the first meeting of the countries that would later form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), China began clamping down on the Uyghur Muslims. In an effort toward political stabilization, the Chinese implemented measures to improve the economy of the area and built roads, rails and pipelines connecting Xinjiang with Central Asia. But an unanticipated result of this economic expansion was the establishment of alliances in border states for Islamic terrorist training and the smuggling of drugs, arms and people.
In 1997, Uyghur Islamists were responsible for several bombings, including a bus bombing in Beijing. Although an Uyghur terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Beijing bombing, Chinese media covered up this fact as they did with many other terrorist attacks prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
China’s Position on Terrorism – Pre & Post 9/11
This attitude began to change just prior to 9/11, when Taliban fighters from Afghanistan began incursions into Xinjiang. The activities prompted formation in June of 2001 of the China-initiated, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO was designed to combat Islamism by setting up a terrorist monitoring center, promoting economic development throughout the region and establishing Chinese and Russian hegemony over the area.
At its first meeting, it reached an agreement calling for cooperation to prevent terrorism and insurgency, mutual identification of terrorists and terrorist organizations, suppression of terrorist activities and extradition of terrorists. Member states also agreed to create rapid deployment forces, conduct joint military exercises, investigate sources of terrorist financing and exchange information on illicit WMD manufacturing, purchase, storage and movement.
This represented a huge step forward because, up to 9/11, the Chinese government was not open about the existence and extent of jihadist activities within its country. Chinese authorities viewed acts of terrorism as a police, law-and-order issue rather than a global jihadist effort and believe that disseminating public reports on crime spreads the activity and increases unrest.
After 9/11, China changed its position to show that it, too, was a victim of the Islamist jihad. The government admitted the proliferation of terrorist activities over the previous decade, listing explosions, assassinations, poisonings, rioting and vehicle fires. At the time, they claimed to have uncovered links between Uyghur Muslim groups and Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and Hizb ut-Tahrir.
At a press conference in Pakistan in 2002, Chinese government officials publicized the arrest of a high-level Uyghur terrorist by Pakistani authorities. The Chinese also requested that the United States repatriate 300 Uyghurs captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, who were alleged fighters for Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
In 2003, China signed an extradition treaty with Pakistan to remand terrorists from the ETIM and the ETLO, whom they believed were affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and who had received training and funding from Osama Bin Laden. The Chinese government pressured Pakistan, known for its alliance with the Taliban and its promulgation of jihadist ideology, to turn over known Uyghur militants who had escaped to Pakistan. This appeal has not produced significant results.
Recent Uyghur Violence
Jihadist violence has continued to escalate over the last few years. In 2004, Uyghurs trained by the IMU were suspected of involvement in an explosion in Balochistan, Pakistan, in which three Chinese engineers were killed. The following year during the Eid-al-Adha religious celebrations, two explosions from suicide bombings near the Kazakstan border in Xinjiang killed 13 people and injured 18.
In January of 2007, the Chinese raided an ETIM terrorist training camp close to the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders. The raid, in which 18 terrorist suspects died, yielded a large explosives and weapons cache. Also seized was a 32-minute video urging Uyghur Muslims to make use of key public events as a platform to publicize their grievances worldwide. It contained references to a “World Islamic Resistance Book” and the establishment of China as a jihad zone, plus included an impressive display of weapons and explosives and a demonstration of vehicle bombings.
On March 7, 2008, two men believed to be Pakistanis and a Uyghur woman who was trained by a Pakistan-based terrorist group attempted to sabotage a China Southern Airlines flight from Xinjiang to Beijing. The woman, who traveled first class, carried flammable liquids onto the aircraft that but failed to ignite them in the plane lavatory. All three terrorists involved carried Pakistani passports.
Chinese Counter-terrorist Measures
To curtail incidents like those cited above of a potentially burgeoning Islamist threat, the Chinese government maintains strict supervision over Xinjiang and has dealt harshly with terrorist activity. China has successfully altered the demography of the region by repopulating it with Han Chinese, now the majority. To curb the influence of Islam, the government engages in surveillance of mosques, restricts the participation of youth and women in mosque activities, monitors the content of services and curtails participation in the Haj. Muslim clerics or imams who serve in the region must complete their training at a state-controlled seminary and teach “moderate” Islam under the leadership of the state.
A heavy police presence around the mosques and the military exists at the border to prevent smuggling of people and weapons. Police routinely cordon off areas in which terrorist incidents or rioting occurs and remove and imprison the agitators before they reopen the area.
Potential Threats to U.S. Security
The Xinjiang-inspired violence is not restricted, however, to attacks just against the Chinese. In May of 2002, a planned attack by the ETIM on the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Kyrgyzstan was thwarted. At the time, Pakistani authorities found blueprints indicating the location of the embassy, the American military base and a synagogue.
In view of the strategic military and economic importance of Central Asia, the need to protect its interests in the region and pressure from the Chinese, the United States agreed to classify some local groups, like the ETIM, as terrorist organizations and freeze their American assets. Of course, geopolitical concerns over maintaining good, Sino-U.S. relations played a major part in the State Department’s classification. The United States wants to ensure continued U.S. military presence in Central Asia in the midst of China’s growing economic and political power in the region and any Chinese attempts to check U.S. influence in the region.
Politics is also playing a larger role as the Olympics draw closer and the international spotlight focuses on China’s oppression of Tibetans, Falun Gong and other repressed groups. While some may be prone to view the Uyghur Muslims through the prism of China’s historical crackdown on religious groups and ethnic minorities, the record of historical, jihadist terrorist activity, listed above, would argue against it.
Despite the Unites States’ own grievances with China, serious questions should be raised to better understand the global jihad, its role in China and our fight in the war against Islamic terrorism.
We should ask: how much of the Uyghur separatist struggle has been co-opted by the Islamists and is being used to breed fellow travelers for the jihadist agenda? Who are victims — the Uyghurs, China or both? Is it realistic for China to fear Islamic extremism, territorial expansion and the spread of insurgency to other aggrieved groups? Is China using the excuse of terrorism as an excuse for a crackdown on the Muslim Uyghurs or is China a victim of the extensive network of Islamic terrorist groups in Xinjiang and Central Asia? Have the Islamists joined forces with Uyghur separatists to capitalize on the struggle in Tibet? Is the West failing to differentiate between radical Islam and legitimate human rights grievances? Is China’s “Strike Hard” policy serving to radicalize the Uyghurs and causing them to find common cause with the Islamists? Finally, how can the United States assist China in the mutual fight against global Islamic terrorism and, at the same time, successfully address issues of religious repression and civil rights?
As China faces world scrutiny and the threat of disruptions and boycotts against the upcoming Olympics for its ruthless civil rights violations, we should be mindful of the growing Islamization of the Xinjiang province under the Uyghur conflict. Clearly, jihadist groups are active in the region and have coordinated terrorist actions, recruitment, training and financing. They are dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic state in Central Asia, related to the worldwide Islamic jihad.
As has been evident in other parts of the world, Islamists deftly graft their agenda onto regional political struggles to form unholy alliances and advance their pan-Islamist agenda. We should not be deceived by our zeal to focus on human rights abuses in China or focus entirely on Tibet and the separatists. Instead, this important component of unrest in Central Asia needs its own specific analysis, political action and focused response.
China’s Olympic hurdles: The three ‘evils’
Sunday, 04.13.2008, 11:50pm (GMT-7)
China appears to have had a pretty rough time in the month of March having to deal one after the other with what it calls the three ‘evils’ – extremism, terrorism and separatism. First, it was the attempted hijack of a domestic airliner by ‘terrorists’ of Uyghur ethnicity from Xinjiang, the site of China’s extremist problem.
Next came the problem of ‘splittism’ or separatism as exemplified by the protests by ethnic Tibetans not just in the Tibet Autonomous Region but also in its neighboring provinces. Even as the protests raged, Taiwan, China’s ‘renegade province,’ held presidential elections and referendums on whether the island would seek UN membership.
The Olympics have been widely perceived as showcasing China’s arrival on the global stage. However, along with its Olympic preparations, Beijing must have, no doubt, been preparing also for eventualities related to each of the three ‘evils.’
What then, do China’s reactions to the events of March indicate about its level of preparedness? And, what do these reactions say about how China sees life after the Olympics? Xinjiang’s ‘extremism’ is clearly the easiest of the three ‘evils’ China has to tackle.
China has been quick to take advantage of 9/11 and the resulting increased global focus on Muslim-led terrorism. Xinjiang’s Uyghurs are Muslim and while they have become increasingly radicalized from the 1990s, post-9/11, it has been easier to categorize Uyghur movements as terrorist.
The airplane hijack was the first real crisis in the Olympics year and from putting it down to the investigations and arrests that followed, as also the statements by Chinese leaders everything appears to have gone by the book.
On view, was a China that was prepared for any threat and ready to host the largest spectacle on the planet, until Lhasa erupted, that is. Meanwhile, Taiwan was, on paper, China’s biggest worry in the run-up to the Olympics, but Beijing must have known for sometime, that the island’s separatists were not likely to win either the presidential elections or the UN referendum.
Nevertheless, it constantly kept up the pressure on the island and on its perceived supporters. China’s leaders, it seemed, had become comfortable focusing on a problem that was both familiar to them and which provided them the opportunity to affix the blame more easily on external actors such as the United States or the outgoing Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-bian.
It was also an issue more amenable to being leveraged by Chinese leaders as a rallying point for the country. However, with international media attention remaining focused on Tibet, the KMT’s return to power in Taiwan did not allow Beijing much opportunity to feel relieved.
It is China’s reactions to the Tibetan protests that will have the most to say about the country, post-Olympics. While China might have expected Tibetan protests in other parts of the world in the run-up to the Olympics it clearly did not expect them to occur within its own territory, either so violently or so widely spread.
Tibet has always been a sensitive issue internationally but Beijing too, has in recent years, wished to be seen as more open and accommodative of popular aspirations. As a result, it apparently did not crackdown on the protests immediately.
Once they started getting out of hand, however, Chinese leaders were left with no choice but to put troops on the streets and blaming the “Dalai clique” for fomenting the unrest. The protests in Tibet have garnered international attention more for emotive issues such as ‘cultural genocide’ or for issues of geopolitics rather than the increasingly economic content of Tibetan grievances.
For China’s leaders, however, it will be the domestic implications of the latter that are the more serious long-term concerns than any international opprobrium. For long, the idea in China has been that economic development and prosperity would make up for constraints on political rights and for other political ills.
However, despite several years of sustained economic attention, rising income inequalities and regional disparities are, evidently, providing additional fuel to political discontent and cultural and ethnic grievances in China’s western periphery. It is doubtful that China will solve these domestic issues in the near future.
However, Beijing is also unlikely to face a sustained challenge, as long as the Tibet issue remains caught in a time-warp of religious and cultural concerns and focused on the personality of the Dalai Lama, without consideration of the changing internal dynamics of Tibet, itself. Meanwhile, even as it accused the international media of biased reporting, China appears to be crafting a far more confident response to the sustained attention on its domestic troubles.
It has moderated its fire-and-brimstone approach and even slipped in the occasional feelers about being willing to enter into talks with the Dalai Lama. Further, despite the fiasco it turned out to be, opening up Lhasa to foreign journalists in quick time was still a bold stroke and indicative of Beijing’s willingness to deal with international attention head on. It is this confidence that is going to be China’s biggest achievement from hosting the Olympic Games. The writer is Research Fellow, IPCS