Terrorism a threat to Xinjiang

Updated: 2013-07-08 07:15

By Fu Xiaoqiang (China Daily)

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The recent terrorist attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have resulted in heavy casualties and social instability. In response, the Chinese government has cracked down on terrorist groups and extremist organizations. The timely and resolute response of the government to safeguard social and political stability, and protect lives and property has been welcomed by people across the country.

Terrorists excel in targeting innocent people, and they have obvious political motives. Their anti-people nature doesn't change irrespective of what they believe in and which place or who they target .

On April 23, terrorist attacks claimed the lives of at least 15 police officers and community officials in a town in Bachu county of Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture. On June 26, terrorists killed 24 people in Lukqun township of Shanshan county in Xinjiang's Turpan prefecture. Knife-wielding extremists attacked the township's police stations, a local government building and a construction site. The two attacks were the handiwork of terrorists rather than ethnic clashes, as some Western media love to call them.

Stabbing innocent people in full view of others has marked the recent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. Among the victims in Shanshan were Uygur and Han neighbors and acquaintances of the attackers. The terrorist attacks in Xinjiang are no different from the one in Boston, and it is absurd for some Western countries to label them part of an ethnic conflict.

Also, the attacks should not be seen as some people's resistance against government "oppression" just because the terrorists targeted some government agencies and police stations. In fact, government facilities have been easy targets of terrorists even in Western countries.

Terrorism has been a scourge for long, more so in Xinjiang where terrorists have launched violent attacks in the recent past with the aim of splitting the region from China. These terrorists pose a serious challenge to Xinjiang's prosperity and stability and are the common enemy of all ethnic groups in China.

For long, the "three evil forces" separatism, extremism and terrorism have carried out violent attacks both in and outside China to establish a separate "East Turkistan". Using Islam as a ruse, the terrorists have been trying to divide Xinjiang's population on religious and ethnic lines, fan religious passions and incite ethnic conflicts in order to create a separate "East Turkistan".

These terrorists, in fact, do not represent any ethnic group or religion. That's why China's fight against terrorism is neither an ethnic nor a religious problem. It is, instead, a long-term effort to safeguard national unity and defeat separatism.

The separatists and terrorists, despite comprising a small number of Uygurs, pose a serious challenge to the lives and property of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. They also have a far-reaching impact on the region's social stability and economic development. Because of the frequent terrorist attacks, the number of domestic and foreign tourists to Xinjiang has reduced by more than one-third. This is a serious problem because it affects the livelihood of local vendors who depend on tourism.

The "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" is part of an international terrorist network . For long, the ETIM has been funded by al-Qaida, and its members are active in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and some have even joined the Syrian conflict to further their cause of "jihad". The ETIM has close links with other violent groups in West Asia, too, and has sought their help to acquire weapons and explosives.

Influenced by the ETIM's extreme ideology, some local terrorist outfits have emerged in Xinjiang in recent years. The development is no different from what has happened in some Western countries. The violent attacks in Xinjiang, launched both by the ETIM and local groups, are nothing but acts of terrorism, because the Boston bombing suspects, too, didn't have direct relations with any specific terrorist outfit but their action was nothing but an act of terrorism.

Some Western countries have been using double standards to define terrorism. Since the ETIM is active mainly in Xinjiang, some Western media tend to portray its violent actions as the result of ethnic and religious conflicts. In doing so, they ignore its anti-human, anti-civilization nature. But once violent attacks threaten their own social and national security, Western countries change their attitude and label them terrorist attacks. The UN designated the ETIM as a terrorist organization in 2002, partly because the US felt it posed a threat to the US' security.

But when it comes to the Xinjiang and Tibet issues, which concern China's core interests, some people in the West see things differently. They prefer to turn a blind eye to the China's efforts to protect all its ethnic groups. And after every terrorist attack in Xinjiang, some Western countries start beating about the bush and even try to fan the flames of violence, because they want to see China plunge into chaos.

The US, too, has been using double standards on terrorism. Terrorism is the common enemy of all countries. And the US is aware of the danger posed by terrorism both at home and abroad. So by turning a blind eye to terrorist attacks in other countries or by labeling them religious or ethnic conflicts, the US will only end up encouraging the terrorist outfits and eventually shooting itself in the foot.

The author is the director of the Center for Counter-terrorism Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily 07/08/2013 page9)