Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 6 News List

China highlights Xinjiang threat

SEPARATISTS:The comments by top security official Cheng Guoping came after a purported Islamic State video showing Uighurs training in Iraq and vowing violence

Reuters, SHANGHAI

Muslim separatists in western China pose the “most prominent” challenge to the country’s security, economy and social stability, the China Daily yesterday quoted a top security official as saying.

Beijing has long said it faces a determined campaign by a group known as the East Turkestan independence movement (ETIM) in far western Xinjiang, where hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in attacks and unrest between mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs and majority Han Chinese.

“[ETIM] is the most prominent challenge to China’s social stability, economic development and national security,” Chinese State Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Security Cheng Guoping (程國平) was quoted as saying.

The comments came about one week after a video purportedly by the Islamic State group surfaced showing Uighurs training in Iraq, vowing to plant their flag in China and saying that blood will “flow in rivers.”

Underscoring the region’s importance in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday attended a Xinjiang delegation meeting on the sidelines of the Chinese National People’s Congress, one of a select group of provincial and regional meetings Xi joins every year.

Xinhua news agency reported his attendance on its microblog, but did not give details.

China is worried that Uighurs have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militant groups there, having traveled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey.

Rights groups have said the unrest in Xinjiang is more a reaction to repressive government policies, while experts have questioned whether ETIM exists as a cohesive militant group.

China denies that there is any repression in Xinjiang.

China should “closely check in on whether Afghanistan is becoming another paradise for extremist and terrorist groups. Such a major development may pose a serious challenge to the security of our northwestern border,” Cheng said.

Last month, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute think tank said in a report on its Web site that Chinese troops were on Afghan soil conducting joint patrols with their Afghan counterparts. China has dismissed such reports.

Security concerns have surfaced as China pursues its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to open up new land and sea routes for Chinese goods, and pours billions of US dollars into investment projects around Asia, including Central Asia and beyond.

Maintaining security where there are related projects was “an important task and a demanding challenge,” Cheng said.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said Xinjiang authorities would issue new anti-extremism regulations this year, possibly later this month, that would “prevent the spread of extremist ideas.”

It said the regulation would supplement an existing counterterrorism law that is focused on acts of terrorism, but did not give details.

“Lawmakers need to distinguish between ethnic habits and extremist practices and understand that not all extremist ideas constitute a crime,” the newspaper cited Dong Xinguang (董新光), deputy director of the standing committee of Xinjiang’s regional legislature, as saying.

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