Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism

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In May 2014, China launched the "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" (Chinese: 严厉打击暴力恐怖活动专项行动) in the far west province of Xinjiang. It is an aspect of the Xinjiang conflict, the ongoing struggle by the Chinese government to effectively manage the ethnically diverse and tumultuous province. This campaign has been credited as effectively giving the state broad latitude to punish and control Muslim Uyghurs based on their religious identities. China has used the global "war on terror" of the 2000s to frame separatist and ethnic unrest into acts of Islamist terrorism to legitimize increasingly repressive counter-insurgency policies in Xinjiang.[1] A notable element of the campaign is the imprisonment of nearly one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang's re-education camps. Chinese officials have maintained that the campaign is essential for national security purposes.


In April 2010, after the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, Zhang Chunxian replaced the former Communist Party chief Wang Lequan, who has been behind religious policies in Xinjiang for 14 years.[2] Zhang Chunxian continued Wang's policy and even strengthened them. In 2011, Zhang proposed "modern culture leads the development in Xinjiang" as his policy statement. In 2012, he first mentioned the phrase "de-extremification" (Chinese: 去极端化) campaigns. Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese government began scaling up its military presence in the region and introducing more stringent restrictions on Uyghur civil liberties.


In response to growing tensions between Han Chinese and the Uighur population of Xinjiang itself, the recruitment of Uighurs to fight in the Syrian Civil War, and several terrorist attacks orchestrated by Uighur separatists, in early 2014, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang launched the renewed "strike hard" campaign around New Year. It included measures targeting cell phones, computers, and religious materials belonging to Uyghurs.[3] The government simultaneously announced a "people's war on terror" and local government introduced new restrictions that included the banning of long beards and the wearing of veils in public places.[4] Official figures show that Xinjiang prosecutors approved 27,164 criminal arrests in 2014, the first year following the announcement of the new strike-hard campaign. This represented a rise of around 95 percent from the previous year.[5]

Chen Quanguo became the Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang in August 2016, replacing Zhang Chunxian and escalating the strike-hard campaign. Under his rule as Xinjiang Party Secretary, Chen has promoted the recruitment of the local population into the police force. He started repression against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Since Chen Quanguo was transferred from Tibet to govern Xinjiang in August 2016, he has overseen the construction of a system of extrajudicial internment camps. He has also increased surveillance of residents by using advanced technology as well as increasing police presence, and passed severe regulations to curtail religious and cultural expression. According to estimates by rights groups, researchers, and United Nations human rights experts, at least hundreds of thousands – or possibly two million members of ethnic minorities – many of them ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs, are currently being held in "re-education" camps in the region.

Scholars have stated that the most pervasive of the repressive measures in Xinjiang may be the government’s use of digital mass surveillance systems. Authorities have collected the DNA, iris scans, and voice samples of the Uighur population, regularly scans the contents of their digital devices, uses digitally coded ID cards to track their movements, and trains CCTV cameras on their homes, streets, and marketplaces.[6] [7]


China has received sharp criticism for its mass detention of members of the Muslim Uighur community from hundreds of other countries as well as human rights observers. James A Millward, a scholar who has researched Xinjiang for three decades, declared that the “state repression in Xinjiang has never been as severe as it has become since early 2017”.[8] The US State Department has said it is deeply concerned over China’s “worsening crackdown” on minority Muslims in Xinjiang as the and the Trump administration has reportedly considered sanctions against senior Chinese officials and companies linked to allegations of human rights abuses.[9] Canadian officials have also raised concern about the internment camps in Beijing and at the United Nations: “We are gravely concerned about the lack of transparency and due process in the cases of the many thousands of Uyghurs detained in so-called ‘re-education camps,’ which continues to call into question China’s commitment to the rule of law and which violate its international human rights obligations.”[10]

Chinese government response[edit]

Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, stated in May 2014 that “practice has proved that our party’s ruling strategy in Xinjiang is correct and must be maintained in the long run”.[11]

In November 2018, a UN panel condemned China's "deteriorating" human rights record in Tibet and Xinjiang. However, the country pushed back, saying that such international condemnation was politically motivated. Foreign minister Le Yucheng responded: “We will not accept the politically driven accusations from a few countries that are fraught with biases, with total disregard for facts. No country shall dictate the definition of democracy and human rights."[12] China has defended the strike-hard campaign as lawful, asserting that the country is a victim of terror, and Uighur men are pulled by global jihadi ideology rather than driven by grievances at home. The Chinese government denies the internment camps are for the purposes of re-education.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trédaniel, Marie; Lee, Pak K. (2017-09-18). "Explaining the Chinese framing of the "terrorist" violence in Xinjiang: insights from securitization theory" (PDF). Nationalities Papers. 46 (1): 177–195. doi:10.1080/00905992.2017.1351427. ISSN 0090-5992.
  2. ^ Wines, Michael. "Wang Lequan Is China's Strongman in Controlling Uighurs". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  3. ^ "China Steps Up 'Strike Hard' Campaign in Xinjiang". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  4. ^ Roberts, Sean R. (2018-03-22). "The biopolitics of China's "war on terror" and the exclusion of the Uyghurs". Critical Asian Studies. 50 (2): 232–258. doi:10.1080/14672715.2018.1454111. ISSN 1467-2715.
  5. ^ Areddy, James T. (2015-01-23). "Xinjiang Arrests Nearly Doubled in '14, Year of 'Strike-Hard' Campaign". WSJ. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  6. ^ Greer, Tanner. "48 Ways to Get Sent to a Chinese Concentration Camp". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  7. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "Top China official urges 'reform through education' for Xinjiang..." U.S. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  8. ^ "What It's Like to Live in a Surveillance State". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  9. ^ Lily, Kuo (September 11, 2018). "US considers sanctions on China over treatment of Uighurs". The Guardian. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Vanderklippe, Nathan (September 27, 2018). "Trudeau, Freeland face criticism for failing to condemn China over Uyghur detentions". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  11. ^ Wong, Edward (30 May 2014). "China Moves to Calm Restive Xinjiang Region". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b Kuo, Lily (2018-11-06). "China says UN criticism of human rights record is 'politically driven'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-12-02.