Terrorism in China
Terrorism in China refers to the use or threatened use of violence to affect political or ideological change in the People's Republic of China. The definition of terrorism differs among scholars, between international and national bodies, and across time, and there is no legally binding definition internationally. In the cultural setting of China, the term is relatively new and ambiguous.
Many media and scholarly accounts of terrorism in contemporary China focus on incidents of violence committed in Xinjiang, as well as on the Chinese government's counter-terrorism campaign in those regions. There is no unified Uyghur ideology, but Pan-Turkism, Uyghur nationalism, and Islamism have all attracted segments of the Uyghur population. Pan-Turkism manifested in the early 20th century, in opposition to Manchurian Qing dynasty rule. Chinese promotion of atheism during the early years of the PRC reinforced the Islamic beliefs of the Uyghurs, which were further heightened when the political liberalization of the 1980s allowed Uyghurs to interact with Muslims in the Gulf region and Central Asia. Recent incidents include the 1992 Urumqi bombings, the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings, the 2010 Aksu bombing, the 2011 Hotan attack, and the 2011 Kashgar attacks. Some scholars have also characterized political campaigns under Mao Zedong as a form of state terrorism.
The occurrence of violence as a form of political resistance in China has been attributed to government policies restricting the practice of religion and political expression, particularly in the Xinjiang region. Because expression of grievances against government policies are not permitted, "acts of violence have replaced peaceful demonstrations as the expression of the Uyghur malaise," according to Rémi Castets. The government of the People's Republic of China identifies terrorism as one of "Three Evils" which also include separatism and religious fundamentalism. These forces are seen by Beijing as inter-connected threats to social stability and national security. In particular, terrorism is viewed as a violent manifestation of ethnic separatism, and separatism is understood as a corollary of religious zealotry. The government has embarked on strike-hard campaigns to suppress these tendencies, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibetan regions.
Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the PRC government has strengthened its involvement in multilateral and bilateral 'counter-terrorism' efforts. As a result of these efforts, some Uyghur separatist movements have been labelled as terrorist groups by the United Nations and U.S. Department of State. There have been allegations that the Chinese government has been applying charges of terrorism in an inconsistent and sometimes politically motivated manner. Amnesty International has condemned China's embrace of the American "Global War on Terror", and has voiced concerns that the government may be using the label to justify human rights abuses against political and religious dissidents.
- 1 Chinese cultural context
- 2 Ethnic Separatism
- 3 Terrorism in contemporary China
- 4 Counter-terrorism
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Chinese cultural context
The concept of terrorism, as it evolved and is understood in the West, did not exist in imperial China. In that setting, political criminality took the form as violence against the emperor, and was viewed as harmful as it induced fear and led to “chaos.” With the exception of “good” political violence against rulers whose lack of propriety and virtue resulted in loss of the mandate of heaven, violence was seen as contrary to human nature and the Tao. Kam Wong argues that the dynamics of imperial China form the basis for contemporary Chinese understandings of terrorism.
Fear of chaos and social disorder is a powerful factor in mobilizing political will to combat potential threats. In the modern context, any group or force with the potential to challenge the existing social order or the political security of the rulers may be considered a form of terrorism, “to be condemned unrelentingly and suppressed at all costs,” according to Wong.
There is currently no clearly established definition for terrorism either nationally or internationally, though the National People's Congress is in the process of drafting legislation that would clarify the use of the term in Chinese law. The draft legislation, as reported by Xinhua News Agency, classified as terrorism acts that "cause or aim to cause severe harm to society by causing casualties, bringing about major economic losses, damaging public facilities or disturbing social order." Human rights groups charge that the term is sometimes applied to non-violent dissidents in China.
Media reports and scholarly studies of terrorism in contemporary China frequently focus on members of the largely Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, who are concentrated in the Northwestern province of Xinjiang. Throughout its history, the region now known as Xinjiang was ruled intermittently by China, while the local Uyghurs identify more closely with the cultures of Central Asia and had resisted attempts at assimilation to Han Chinese culture. From 1933-34, Uyghurs founded a short-lived independent Islamic republic, and again from 1944 to 1949 established the Second East Turkestan Republic, fighting numerous armed revolts against Chinese rule before coming under the control of Beijing in 1955. After the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet Union amassed troops on the Russian border with Xinjiang, and bolstered "East Turkestan" separatist movements, which received moral and material support from other regional militant groups. China accused the Soviets of engineering riots, and improved the military infrastructure there to combat it.
In the 1980s, Chinese authorities relaxed some of its repressive policies against ethnic minorities, and loosened border controls which allowed Uyghurs to travel to the Mecca Pilgrimage. During this period, some Uyghurs came into contact with radical Islamist groups operating in Central Asia and Pakistan, while others were studied in Koranic schools associated with Islamist movements. The increase in fundamentalism has been linked to the Islamic revival of the 1980s, following Deng Xiaoping's political reforms which sought to reduce the suppression of religion and promotion of atheism that was widespread during Mao's rule. Rémi Castets has commented that this led to a "more militant logic using Islam as an instrument for distinguishing Uyghur values from the non-clerical and atheistic values promoted by the Chinese authorities." Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, the Chinese government feared a resurgency of separatist movements, as well a spread of radical Islam in the region, which could destabilize its infrastructure in Xinjiang. During this time, countries such as Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan offered asylum to Uyghur refugees, and recognition to groups pursuing independence. To combat this, the Beijing government settled border disputes and offered economic co-operation with the Central Asian republics through the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, and successfully persuaded these countries to ban Uyghur separatist groups residing there, as well as to extradite suspected Uyghur separatist refugees.
There is no single Uyghur agenda, and grievances of Uyghurs against the Chinese government are mostly political in nature. While some Uyghurs desire an independent state in line with Turkic ethnic groups of Central Asia, others desire an autonomous relation with China while retaining their distinct culture, whereas others desire extensive integration with the Chinese political system.
The desire for independence or greater political and cultural autonomy largely stems from resentment over perceived restrictions to religious and cultural expression, ethnic conflict with the local Han Chinese population, income inequality, and the perception that Beijing's government is misallocating Xinjiang’s natural resource wealth. Some groups have adopted violent tactics in pursuit of these goals, mostly the establishment of a separate Uyghur state called East Turkistan or Uyghuristan, which lays claim to a large part of China. Entities identified in Chinese government documents as having involvement in violent attacks include the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO), United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET), and the Uyghur Liberation Organization (ULO). Members of these groups are believed to have received training in Central Asian nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such violent groups has been noted as frequently splintering, merging, and collapsing, which makes claims difficult to substantiate. China's Muslim Hui people, who are comparatively well integrated into Chinese society, regard some Uyghurs as "unpatriotic separatists who give other Chinese Muslims a bad name," according to the New York Times.
Scholars have indicated that violence in Xinjiang is based on an assortment of ideologies, and there is no single dominant ideology among the Uyhurs. As James Millward writes, incidents have "been discontinuous and characterized by a variety of ideologies, Islam being only one of them." Islam, Pan-Turkic nationalism, and Uyghur nationalism are all factors in unrest in the Xinjiang region. There are six incidents in China from 1990 to 2005, according to Ogden, that meet the strictest definition of terrorism, meaning the use of "random" violence against innocent civilians to cause terror, and excluding calculated violence against the state to advance a secessionist movement. Among the events identified by Ogden was an incident on 6 February 1992 when Uyghur separatists (possibly belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Party) detonated a bomb on a public bus in Urumqi, and a bomb attack on a hotel in Kashgar on 17 June 1992. Instances of violence by ethnic Uyghurs against security forces, organs or infrastructure of the state are far more common, but are distinguished by scholars from terrorism aimed against the civilian population. According to Martin, Chinese authorities frequently classify any act of violence or separatist activity in Xinjiang as a manifestation of terrorism, while comparable acts by ethnic Han Chinese would not be classified in this manner.
Tibet, the homeland of the Tibetan nation of 4.6 million Tibetans, about half of whom live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region ("Tibet") and slightly more in the neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Yunnan, Gansu and Sichuan, lies for the most part within the People's Republic of China. For centuries Tibet resisted Chinese influence and control, with varying effectiveness. During periods when China was dominant, little more was involved than a Chinese governor and a garrison in Lhasa and Chinese administration in border areas such as Amdo and Kham with mixed populations of Tibetans and Chinese; no attempt was made by the Chinese to displace the Tibetan aristocracy or political and religious institutions of Tibet. From 1912 until 1950, Tibet experienced a period of de facto independence from Chinese rule, following the fall of the Qing Dynasty. However in 1950 the Chinese successfully invaded Tibet and its outlying areas, occupied it, displaced Tibetan political and religious institutions, and assumed governance of the nation. Tibetan resistance since 1950 has taken a variety of forms, including instances of armed resistance that has been described as terrorism by Chinese authorities.
Discontent surrounding the Chinese-implemented land reforms and assimilation policies in Tibetan areas led to revolts and intermittent warfare. Some Tibetan paramilitary groups during the period, such as Chushi Gangdruk, received covert material and training support from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Taiwan-based Kuomintang government. The resistance culminated in the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion. The uprising was suppressed by Chinese forces, leading to the flight of the 14th Dalai Lama and some 100,000 other Tibetans to India.
In the aftermath of the revolt, Chinese authorities imposed radical social reforms and further restrictions to religious freedom. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution further intensified Tibetan resentment against Chinese rule and strengthened group identification. By 1980, Deng Xiaoping's ascension to leadership and the implementation of the Chinese economic reform program led to reform of earlier repressive policies against ethnic minorities, and granted nominal political autonomy to Tibet. While the Chinese government has invested considerably in the development of the Tibetan economy, education system and infrastructure, the continuing restrictions to religious expression and political participation resulted in resentment amongst the Tibetan populace, leading to the 1987–1989 Tibetan unrest. The unrest prompted Chinese authorities to focus more on the economic, educational, and infrastructural development of the region, intensify efforts to undermine the religious and political influence of the Dalai Lama, and encourage ethnic Han migration to the region.
Ogden notes that many Tibetans desire greater cultural and political autonomy, if not full independence, and outbreaks of violent clashes with authorities in the region occur only intermittently, such as in the 2008 Lhasa violence. Ogden credits the low incidence of conventional terrorism in Tibet to an undereducated population, swift and harsh responses to terrorism by the Chinese state, and the pacific influence of Buddhism. Nonetheless, there are segments of the Tibetan and Tibetan diasporic population who reject the leadership of the Dalai Lama and view violent opposition as the only viable route towards independence. Notable instances of violence against civilians include a series of attacks 1996 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, and a bombing in a public square in the city of Chengdu in April 2002, which Chinese authorities allege were carried out by Tibetan separatists. Chinese authorities adopt a broad definition of terrorism with respect to Tibet, and have labelled a variety of protests and expressions of opposition as terrorism. In 2012, for instance, authorities referred to the Dalai Lama's prayer sessions for Tibetan self-immolators as "terrorism in disguise."  Authorities have also ascribed terrorist motives to Tibetan exiles who call for independence, and to Tibetan monks who travel to India without government authorization.
Terrorism in contemporary China
Legal definition and use
Under China's criminal law, acts of terrorism can carry a prison sentence of up to ten years. Since 2001, over 7,000 Chinese citizens have been convicted on terrorism charges. However, the law does not clearly define what constitutes a terrorist group or activity. In October 2011, Chinese authorities began crafting a bill that would more clearly define terrorism. According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, the draft bill defines terrorist acts as those that are intended "induce public fear or to coerce state organs or international organisations by means of violence, sabotage, threats or other tactics...These acts cause or aim to cause severe harm to society by causing casualties, bringing about major economic losses, damaging public facilities or disturbing social order."
Human rights and international law experts have raised concerns over the implications of the bills in light of the lack of judicial independence in the People's Republic of China. A representative of Human Rights Watch[unreliable source?] was reported as saying “strengthening law enforcement powers without appropriate judicial checks and balances is dangerous,” and further noted that it was unclear how and by whom groups and individuals would be designated as terrorists.
The government of the People's Republic of China identifies terrorism as one of "Three Evils", alongside separatism and religious fundamentalism. These forces are seen by Beijing as inter-connected threats to social stability and national security. In particular, terrorism is viewed as a violent manifestation of ethnic separatism, and separatism is understood as a corollary of religious zealotry.
Entities designated as terrorists threats
China's Ministry of Public Security issued a list of what it considers terrorist threats on 15 December 2003. These include the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), the World Uyghur Congress, and the East Turkistan Information Center. The Ministry further named eleven individuals as terrorists.
The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, whose aim is to the establishment of a fundamentalist Muslim state to be called "East Turkistan" and the conversion of all Chinese people to Islam, operates throughout Central Asia and claimed responsibility for over 200 acts of terrorism from 1990 to 2001, resulting in at least 162 deaths and 440 injuries. Chinese authorities allege the group has a close relationship with al-Qaeda, and that it receives funding and training in Afghanistan. Rémi Castets has said that while "it is possible that these movements, and particularly the ETIM, might have had contacts with the bin Laden network and more probably with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," direct ties are likely minimal because of "bin Laden’s silence on East Turkistan." The group was considerable weakened following the American-led invasion of Afghanistan which saw the death of its leader Hasan Mahsum, as well as Emir Abu Mohammed, who was killed in October 2003 in raid on an al-Qaeda training camp in Waziristan by Pakistani forces.  According to Stratfor, following the death of Mahsum, the group fractured and a successor movement with ties to Central Asian militants was formed in Afghanistan, under the leadership of Abdul Haq. The reformed ETIM issuing several videos including threats to attack the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, although no such large-scale attacks took place. Haq was allegedly killed by an US drone strike in Afghanistan in March 2010.
ETIM's capabilities and existence as depicted by the Chinese government has raised doubt amongst Uyghur dissident groups; according to Uyghur expert Dru Gladney, the majority of information on ETIM derive from Chinese government sources and lack independent verification, while other analysts noted that the ETIM was "obscure but not unknown" before the 9/11 attacks, having been documented for over 20 years by both Chinese and non-Chinese scholars. Furthermore, Uyghur dissident groups criticized the inclusion of the World Uyghur Congress and East Turkistan Information Center, claiming that both groups are NGOs based in Germany which mainly serve to report information. Chinese state-media published a statement from terrorism scholar Rohan Gunaratna, who claimed that the ETIM had "many sympathizers and supporters" within the WUC.
Out of these groups, the ETIM and ETLO were also designated to be terrorist groups by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the United Nations. The United States refused China's request to designate the ETLO as such in 2003, although US State Department says the ETLO has engaged "small politically-motivated bombings and armed attacks".
Chronology of major events
Following is a partial list of events that have been described as terror attacks or attempted terror attacks by non-state actors in the People's Republic of China. Due to variations in the definitions and applications of the term, the characterization of some events as terrorist attacks may be disputed. Many incidents listed occurred in Xinjiang or Tibet—areas where foreign journalists have extremely limited access, and are closely monitored if and when they gain permission to report in the regions. As such, many reports of violence or terror attacks cannot be confirmed independently, and foreign reporting frequently relies on information released by the government of China or in the state-run press. In several instances, conflicting narratives of these have emerged from witnesses or from diaspora groups.
|5 February 1992||Urumqi, Xinjiang||5 February 1992 Urumqi Bombings||Two buses exploded in Urumqi, resulting in at least 3 deaths, and 23 injured. Unconfirmed reports indicated the attacks were perpetrated by the East Turkestan Islamic Party. According to government documents, other bombs were discovered and defused in a local cinema and a residential building.|
|13 January 1996||Lhasa, Tibet||Four major attacks were acknowledged, although unofficial sources reported more. The attacks generally targeted and successfully wounded people, whereas earlier bombings targeted buildings, such an obelisk on the Qinghai-Tibet highway. On 13 January, a Tibetan Buddhist monk exploded a homemade bomb at a shop owned by Han Chinese. Five days later on 18 January, the house of Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head lama of the Panchen Lama's Tashilhunpo Monastery, was bombed. Gyaltsen had opposed the 14th Dalai Lama to ordain Gyaincain Norbu in the 11th Panchen Lama controversy. He was out of his house at the time of the explosion, but a person nearby was "seriously injured", according to the South China Morning Post. No group claimed responsibility for the bombings, but China blamed forces loyal to the Dalai Lama. On 18 March, a bomb exploded at the regional government and local Communist Party compound. The government temporarily shut down tourism in Tibet in response. China initially denied all of the blasts, but later attributed them to separatists. The final blast of the year was detonated by remote control at 1:30 am on Christmas Day, in front of the central Lhasa municipal government offices. Five people were injured, including two night watchmen and three shopkeepers. The official Radio Tibet called the blast "an appalling act of terrorism", and the Chinese government offered a $120,000 reward for the perpetrator. Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region Gyamco called on residents to "heighten our alertness and strengthen preventive measures".|
|27 February 1997||Urumqi, Xinjiang||Urumqi bus bombs||Bombs detonated on three buses in Urumqi, leaving nine dead and 68 seriously wounded. The Uyghur Liberation Party claims responsibility for the bombings.|
|February - April 1998||Qaghiliq, Xinjiang||A series of six explosions occurred in February and March aimed at economic and industrial targets. The following month, authorities reported that bombs exploded at homes and offices of local communist party and public security agents.|
|16 March 2001||Shijiazhuang, Hebei||Shijiazhuang bombings||108 civilians were killed when several ANFO bombs (similar to those used by the IRA and in the 1993 World Trade Center and 1995 Oklahoma City bombings) tore through four city blocks in the city of Shijiazhang. The perpetrator, 41-year-old Jin Ruchao, was allegedly motivated by hated of his ex-wife.
The government account was greeted with skepticism, however; and some sources suggested Jin may have been a scapegoat, and that the bombings may have been the work of disgruntled former factory workers frustrated by layoffs. The bombings were described in the New York Times as the deadliest mass murder in decades, and was characterized by China scholar Andrew Scobell as perhaps the worst terrorist act in the history of the People's Republic of China.
|3 April 2002||Chengdu, Sichuan||On 3 April 2002, a bomb described as a "simple fuse device" detonated in Tianfu Square in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. According to local media reports, one individual was seriously injured, and many others were hurt in the blast. Two men were apprehended: 52-year-old Tibetan religious leader Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, and 26-year-old Lobsang Dondrub. On 2 December, Rinpoche was given a two-year suspended death sentence for "causing explosions [and] inciting the separation of the state." Dondrub was also sentenced to death, and executed on 26 January 2003. The men maintained their innocence, and international observers expressed concerns over the legality of the trial.|
|5 January 2007||Pamirs Plateau, Xinjiang||Xinjiang raid||Chinese police raided a suspected East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) training camp in Akto County in the Pamirs plateau near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. A spokesperson for the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau said that 18 terror suspects were killed and 17 captured. The raid also resulted in the death of one Chinese police officer and the injury of another. The Bureau said they confiscated hand grenades, guns, and makeshift explosives from the site.|
|9 March 2008||Urumqi, Xinjiang||State-run Xinhua News Agency reported that authorities had successfully foiled a terrorist attack on a commercial jet. The Southern China flight departed from Urumqi, and made an emergency landing in Lanzhou while en route to Beijing. Two individuals were reportedly taken into custody after flight crew discovered flammable material in the plane's toilet. Xinjiang Governor Nuer Baikeli told reporters that the perpetrators "attempted to create an air disaster," but authorities provided no further details.|
|4 August 2008||Kashgar, Xinjiang||2008 Kashgar attack||Suspected ETIM militants reportedly drove a truck into a group of approximately 70 jogging policemen. According to official Chinese media accounts, they then got out of the truck wielding machetes, and lobbed grenades at the officers, killing 16 people. However, three tourists in the vicinity provided a different account of the event, saying that the attackers appeared to be uniformed paramilitary police officers attacking other officers with machetes.|
|10 August 2008||Kuqa County, Xinjiang||Xinhua reported that seven men armed with homemade explosives reportedly drove taxis into government buildings, in Kuqa, Xinjiang, injuring at least two police officers and a security guard. Five of the assailants were shot and killed. The attacks began at 2:30 am when five assailants drove taxis into the local public security and industry and commerce buildings. The Communist Party chief in Xinjiang called the attack a "terrorist act" and suspected the ETIM was responsible.|
|12 August 2008||Yamanya, Xinjiang||Chinese media reported that three security officers were allegedly killed in a stabbing incident in Yamanya, near Kashgar in Xinjiang. The report did not specify what the attacker’s affiliations were.|
|19 August 2010||Aksu, Xinjiang||2010 Aksu bombing||According to Chinese media reports, six ethnic Uyghur men were allegedly involved in loading a vehicle with explosives and driving into a group of security officers at a highway intersection near Aksu, Xinjiang. Seven people, including two attackers, were killed, according to police. In the wake of the attack, authorities in the region vowed to crack down "relentlessly" on criminal activity.|
|18 July 2011||Hotan, Xinjiang||2011 Hotan attack||Chinese media reported that 18 people died when 18 young Uyghur men stormed a police station in the city of Hotan. The men were alleged to have stabbed a security guard and two female hostages, and killed another security guard with a bomb. The attack ended when security officers shot and killed 14 of the attackers. Chinese media initially referred to the attackers as rioters or thugs, though subsequent accounts called the event a terrorist attack. The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress provided a different accounts of event, saying that authorities provoked clashes by opening fire on Uyghurs participating in a non-violent protest against heavy-handed security crackdowns in the city. The Turkistan Islamic Party later claimed responsibility for the attack.|
|30–31 July 2011||Kashgar, Xinjiang||2011 Kashgar attacks||At least 18 people died in a series of alleged terrorist attacks in the city of Kashgar. According to state-run media accounts, the violence began when two Uyghur men hijacked a truck, ran it into a crowded street, and started stabbing people, killing six. The attack ended when the assailants were overpowered by the crowd, which killed one attacker. On the second day, state-run media reported that a "group of armed terrorists" stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, and set it ablaze. They then proceeded to indiscriminately kill four more civilians. Armed clashes then reportedly ensured, ending with police capturing or killing the attackers. The Turkistan Islamic Party later claimed responsibility for the attack. One of the suspects appeared in a TIP video training in Pakistan.|
|29 June 2012||Xinjiang||Tianjin Airlines Flight GS7554||Chinese official media reported that six men attempted to hijack Tianjin Airlines flight GS7554 from Hotan to Urumqi, Xinjiang. The men reportedly sought to gain access to cockpit ten minutes after takeoff, but were stopped by passengers and crew. A spokesperson for the Xinjiang government said the men were ethnic Uyghurs. Xinhua reported at least 10 passengers and crew were injured when six hijackers tried to take control of the aircraft. The World Uyghur Congress contested the official account of events, claiming instead that a dispute over seating broke out between Uyghurs and ethnic Han. The WUC suggested the event was being used as a pretext to "reinforce repression" in Xinjiang.|
|24 April 2013||Xinjiang||2013 Xinjiang ethnic clashes||It was an incident of ethnic clash that took place between Muslim Uighur and Han Chinese community.As reported by BBC nearly 21 people were killed in the incident including 15 police officers.|
|26 June 2013||Lukqun, Xinjiang||At least 35 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and police in the deadliest altercation in the region since 2009. Chinese official media reported that a group of 17 knife-wielding Uyghur men attacked a police station and government building. Chinese authorities pronounced the event a terrorist attack, and blamed separatists and overseas forces for fomenting tensions. The World Uyghur Congress blamed the event on “continued suppression and provocation” by Chinese authorities in the region. Foreign media outlets were prevented from visiting the area to investigate.|
|This section relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (May 2012)|
According to politics professor Chien-peng Chung, following a spate of unrest and violence in Xinjiang and Tibet in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chinese authorities adopted a variety of approach to suppress what it considers the "three evils": terrorism, separatism, and religious fundamentalism, which the government considers to be interconnected threats to its authorities. To combat these, the government promoted economic development through investments in infrastructure, tourism, and capital investment to spur growth, and encouraged ethnic Han migration into the western regions. In addition, authorities launched "strike hard" campaigns against crime, which also had the effect of targeting expressions of separatism and unauthorized religious practice.
Chien noted that in recent years, Chinese authorities have allowed for a gradual expansion of individual freedoms in many spheres, all the while maintaining strict control over religious, cultural, and literary associations of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. In 1997, a "strike hard" campaign began in Tibet and Xinjiang involving in tightly controlling religious activities and festivals. In Tibet, authorities sought to curtail the influence of the Dalai Lama by banning all displays of his image, and in 1995, authorities replaced his choice of the number two Panchen Lama with a Beijing-approved candidate. In Xinjiang, authorities placed restrictions on unofficial religious practices, and closely monitored Muslims returning from madrasah schools overseas.
Chien also noted that corresponding to the launch of strike-hard campaigns and economic stimulus efforts, there was an apparent decrease in the level of organized violent protest or bombings in the Western autonomous regions. Whereas levels of anti-government violence were high from 1987–1997, reported instances were virtually non-existent in the several years that followed. In the aftermath of the strike-hard campaigns, Tibetan and Uyghur dissident groups overseas have adjusted their strategies in promoting their causes: as of 1998 the Dalai Lama has no longer called for outright Tibetan independence, and Uyghur groups have become more adept in framing their cause as one of human rights and free elections. Chien noted that while instances of violent organized protest and bombings have decreased, heightened tensions between local ethnic groups and the Han Chinese who have migrated into Xinjiang and Tibet en masse since the 1990s. According to Chien, in terms of public relations and reporting incidences of violence, local authorities are encouraged to take accounts of foreign investments so that they would not be discouraged by violence, but at the same time, authorities needed justifications to initiate actions against separatist groups.
The government of the People’s Republic of China has engaged in cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral level to gain support for its efforts to combat terrorism and ethnic separatism. This has increased following the September 11 attacks in the United States, which led to the global War on Terror.
Much of this cooperation involves the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which includes several Central Asian states home to large ethnic Uyghur populations. The Chinese government has periodically requested that authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan crack down on Uyghur secessionists, and that they extradite suspected terrorists and separatists to China. The Government of Kazakhstan has consistently extradited Uyghur terrorist suspects to China and in 2006 participated in a large-scale, joint counter-terrorism drill.
The Chinese and Kyrgyz governments increased security along their borders with each other and Tajikistan in January 2007 after Chinese government officials expressed concern that possible terrorists were traveling through Xinjiang and Central Asia to carry out attacks. The warning followed a high-profile raid on a training camp in Akto County, Xinjiang run by suspected East Turkestan Islamic Movement members.
In 2006, American forces captured 22 Uyghur militants from combat zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2006 on information that they were linked to Al-Qaeda. They were imprisoned for five to seven years in Guantanamo Bay, where they testified that they were trained by ETIM leader Abdul Haq, at an ETIM training camp. After being reclassified as No Longer Enemy Combatant, a panel of judges ordered them released into the United States, as they could not be released back to China because of human rights concerns. A Chinese government spokesman denounced the move as a violation of international law and demanded the return of the men to China.
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- Tania Branigan, ‘Dalai Lama's prayers for Tibetans 'terrorism in disguise', China says’, The Guardian, 19 October 2011.
- Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Annual Report 2006 : Tibet, 2006. Quote: “The Chinese government portrays as terrorists some Tibetans living outside of China who call for independence, but has not provided evidence for this designation.”
- Ananth Krishnan, Concern as China mulls over anti-terror laws, The Hindu, 26 October 2011.
- "China identifies Eastern Turkistan terrorist organizations, terrorists". GlobalSecurity.org. 16 December 2003. Retrieved 2 January 2010. "BEIJING, 15 December (Xinhuanet) – China's Ministry of Public Security Monday issued a list of the first batch of identified "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations and 11 members of the groups. [...] This is the first time China issued a list of terrorist organizations and terrorists."
- British Broadcasting Corporation, "China issues 'terrorist' list", 15 December 2003.
- Bashir, Shaykh (1 July 2008). "Why Are We Fighting China?". NEFA Foundation. Retrieved 7 August 2010. "...We are fighting China... China is an enemy who has invaded Muslim countries and occupies Muslim East Turkestan. There is no greater obligation, aside from belief in Allah, than expelling the enemies of Muslims from our countries.... We are fighting China to make them testify that 'there is no God but Allah, Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah' and make them convert to Islam...."
- "Al-Qaida: Dead or captured". MSNBC. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- "China: The Evolution of ETIM". Stratfor. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- Guang, Pan (May 2006). "East Turkestan Terrorism and the Terrorist Arc: china's Post-9/11 Anti-Terror Strategy". China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 4 (2). ISSN 1653-4212.
- "China: ETIM's Direct Threat to the Olympics". Stratfor. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- "Xinjiang fighter 'killed by drone'". Al Jazeera. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2010. "The leader of a Chinese separatist movement, believed to have links with al-Qaeda, has been killed in a US missile strike, Pakistani and Taliban officials have said."
- Freed from Guantánamo, a Uighur clings to asylum dreams in Sweden
- Reed, J. Todd; Diana Raschke (2010). The ETIM: China's Islamic Militants and the Global Terrorist Threat. ABC-CLIO. pp. 14–16, 46–47.
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- Uyghur group added to Kazakh terror list RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
- Islamic groups banned in Kyrgyzstan Central Asia Caucasus Institute
- See, for example, Nicholas Kristof, Terrorism and the Olympics, New York Times, 29 May 2008.
- AFP, [Three dead as unrest flares in China's restive Xinjiang, 12 August 2008.
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- Buckley, Michael (2006). Tibet. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 133.
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- People's Daily, Hatred, Revenge Motive for Fatal Shijiazhuang Explosions, 16 March 2001.
- David Rennie, Chinese bomber 'went to his targets by taxi', The Telegraph, 28 March 2001.
- BBC, China blast reward doubled, 20 March 2001.
- John Gittings, Manhunt for mass killer fails to pacify Chinese, The Guardian, 20 March 2001.
- British Broadcasting Service, China 'anti-terror' raid kills 18, 8 January 2007.
- Ben Blanchard, China foils attempted terror attack on flight, Reuters, 9 March 2008.
- Geoffrey York, Olympic terror plot foiled, Beijing says, The Globe and Mail, 10 March 2008.
- Report: China thwarts two terrorist attacks CNN
- Parry, Richard Lloyd (11 August 2008). "China's Uighur rebels switch to suicide bombs". The Sunday Times (UK). Retrieved 22 April 2011.
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- The Economist, “Let them shoot hoops”, 30 July 2011.
- BBC, “China: Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, leaves 15 dead”, 31 July 2011.
- Michael Wines, “Deadly Violence Strikes Chinese City Racked by Ethnic Tensions”, New York Times, 31 July 2011.
- Cheng, Yongsun; Yu, Xiaodong (October 2011). The Bloody Weekend. News China. pp. 23–25.
- Zenn, Jacob (2 September 2011). "Catch-22 of Xinjiang as a gateway". Kashgar: Asia Times. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Malcolm Moore, Chinese plane in Xinjiang hijack attempt, Daily Telegraph, 29 June 2012.
- "Plane hijacking foiled in west China, 6 held". 30 June 2012.
- AFP, China says plane hijack attempt thwarted, 29 June 2012.
- "China's Xinjiang hit by deadly clashes". BBC. 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- Matt Schiavenza, 35 People Dead in Chinese Mass Murder: What Happened?, The Atlantic, 3 July 2013.
- Reuters, “China calls Xinjiang unrest a ‘terrorist attack,’ ups death toll to 35”, 28 June 2013.
- Associated Press, “Death toll from violence in China’s Xinjiang region rises to 35: state media”, 28 June 2013.
- Graham Fuller and Jonathan Lipman, “Islam in Xinjiang,” in S. Frederick Starr Ed. Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland (ME Sharpe, 2004).
- Kazakhstan exacerbates "religious threat" by maneuvering between Beijing and Washington Jamestown Foundation
- China/Kazakhstan: Forces Hold First-Ever Joint Terrorism Exercises Radio Free Europe
- China: Border security tightened amid 'terrorist infiltration' warning Radio Free Europe
- Fletcher, Holly; Bajoria, Jayshree (31 July 2008). "The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)". Backgrounder. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- de Vogue, Ariane; Powell, Dennis; Ryan, Jason (24 April 2009). "Guantanamo Uyghur Detainees: Coming to America?". ABC News. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- Senior Chinese official issues Bush rebuke
- Explosions in Xinjiang
- Pakistan hands over Muslim separatist leader-China
- Al-Qaeda's China problem
- China's Post 9/11 Terrorism Strategy
- Five Lessons from China's War on Terror
- Violent Separatism in Xinjiang
- Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China