China has warned its citizens in Algeria about possible attacks from al-Qaeda in retribution for a Chinese government crackdown in the Muslim region of Xinjiang, and security has been tightened around Beijing’s missions in the Philippines.
The Chinese embassy in Algeria on its Web site urged all Chinese people and organizations to be more aware of safety precautions and to strengthen security measures “in consideration of the situation after the July 5 incident in Urumqi.”
The warning came after London risk consultancy Stirling Assynt said in a report to clients that al-Qaeda might target Chinese workers in northwest Africa, citing “chatter” after the July 5 ethnic riots in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.
“China has been reminding overseas Chinese to pay attention to their safety and enhance self protection,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told reporters on Tuesday when asked to comment on the report. “China will take any necessary measure to protect the safety of Chinese organizations and citizens overseas.”
A diplomat, surnamed Shao, at the Chinese embassy in Algiers said: “We do believe that security has improved a lot in Algeria and we will rely on Algerian security forces to protect our people.”
In the Philippines, which is battling a Muslim insurgency in its south, the government has ordered security to be tightened around the Chinese embassy and consulates, said Andres Caro, head of the national police directorate.
Caro said police had asked intelligence units to investigate threats against China’s interests after Liu Zhongxiang (劉仲祥), China’s defense attache in Manila, requested police assistance to guard the embassy and consular offices.
“There was information that local terrorists associated with these Chinese terrorists/supporters are planning to initiate attacks against Chinese embassies in various countries,” Caro told reporters, quoting a letter sent by Liu.
Security is heavy in Uighur neighborhoods of Urumqi and other cities in Xinjiang after the ethnic riots.
The death toll from ethnic unrest in northwestern China’s Urumqi city on July 5 has risen by eight to 192, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.
No breakdown of the new toll was given, but when reporting the earlier 184 deaths, Xinhua said 137 of the victims were from China’s dominant Han ethnic group, 46 were Muslim Uighurs and one was from the Hui minority.
More than 1,600 people were injured in the ethnic unrest, 74 of whom were in critical condition as of Sunday, Xinhua said earlier. About 1,000 people have been detained.
Exiled Uighur organizations said they opposed all forms of violence and condemned the reported al-Qaeda threat.
The Uyghur (also spelt Uighur) American Association and the World Uyghur Congress are “extremely disturbed by reports that the North African wing of al-Qaeda has threatened to attack Chinese workers in Africa in revenge for the deaths of Uyghurs in East Turkestan [Xinjiang],” the exiled groups said in an emailed statement.
They said they advocated basic human rights and self-determination for Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia and who now make up less than half the region’s population of 20 million.