China seeks support for its own ‘War on Terror'

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:28 am IST

Published - September 11, 2011 12:41 am IST - BEIJING:

China has called for a renewed and united international effort against terrorism on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, seeking greater global support for its own battle against terror groups as well as taking aim at Western “double standards” in dealing with terror.

Ahead of the 9/11 anniversary, Chinese officials and the State media have drawn attention to the growing domestic terror threat in the wake of recent attacks in the Xinjiang region, stressing the need for greater international cooperation.

The official media here has also hit out at the U.S. for turning a “blind eye” to China's — and other countries' — terror concerns, and highlighted both Washington's failures and weakened position a decade after the attacks on account of two costly wars and the financial crisis.

“The United States and its Western allies have repeatedly used double standards on anti-terror issues, which has obstructed the progress of the global effort,” said the State-run Xinhua news agency in a commentary.

“Often, the United States has turned a blind eye to the damage and threats caused by extremists in Russia's Chechen Republic, and opted for a double standard on the issue of the separatist forces in China's Xinjiang province, rejecting China's request to extradite members of the so-called ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement',” (ETIM) which has a close relationship with al-Qaeda.”

Following the 9/11 attacks, China, too, intensified its campaign against what the government describes as the ‘Three Evils' of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Beijing sought U.S. support against groups such as the ETIM, which has been behind recent attacks in Xinjiang.

More than half of the 35,000 convictions as terrorists in the decade following the 9/11 attacks were in Turkey and China, according to a study conducted by the AP.

China alone has arrested more than 7,000 people since 9/11 under anti-terror laws, which treat “separatism” and “extremism” as equivalent to terrorism.

Religious extremism

Pan Zhiping, a terrorism expert at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told The Hindu in a recent interview that religious extremism was on the rise in Xinjiang, and behind the recent attacks in Kashgar and Hotan which left at least 40 people dead. The Jihadist group, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which was behind the ETIM, claimed responsibility. Mr. Pan pointed to the rising influence of groups such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir. “These groups use the mosque to spread extremist ideas.” Leaflets from several groups, calling for violence against Han Chinese, had circulated in some areas in Xinjiang.

In 2003, when the war in Iraq was already under way, China's Ministry of Public Security issued a list of terror groups that China considered illegal and a threat, including the ETIM and the World Uygur Youth Congress. While the West and rights groups have accused China of inflating the terror threat to tackle dissent in Xinjiang, much of the criticism subsided after 9/11. The Xinhua commentary said there was “an urgent need to create a common standard for fighting terrorism”, pointing at the West's questioning of Russian and Chinese anti-terror efforts, even as Washington launched its ‘war against terror'.

“Fighting and eradicating terrorism, extremism and separatism should be an international responsibility and, therefore, shared by every country, rather than the sole responsibility of the United States.”

Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the official China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the international community “still differs on definitions of terrorism and terrorist organisations,” which was one reason for the failure of effective cooperation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, had “helped shore up sympathy and support for terrorist groups”, rather than “nip terrorism in the bud”.

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