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Islamic State terror threat ups ante in China's far west

Beijing is worried that IS-trained terrorists will wreak havoc in Xinjiang

Islamic State terror threat ups ante in China's far west

The so-called Islamic State released a video warning China of upcoming terrorist attacks on Feb 27. (Screengrab from video)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
China

March 3, 2017

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After the so-called Islamic State (IS) released a video vowing to spill blood in China, the Chinese government has pledged to fight terrorist forces alongside the international community.

The 30-minute IS video showed a fighter, suspected to be a Uyghur from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China, claiming that he would go back to China and commit a terrorist attack. There were also images of Xinjiang and Chinese police patrolling the streets.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang was asked about the video, released by the Iraqi arm of IS, at a regular press meeting on March 1.

Geng said that he was not aware of the video but stated that "China opposes terrorism in all its manifestations and is actively engaged in international cooperation to fight terrorism."

"East Turkestan terrorist forces, represented by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, pose a grave threat to the security and stability of China and the region. We will work with the international community in jointly fighting [their] forces," he said.

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is listed as a terrorist organization by China, Russia, European Union, the United States and other countries. They have a complex relationship with IS and other terrorist groups in the area and operate in Xinjiang where the majority of the population are Uyghur Muslims.

"Beijing in fact is very concerned by the video. Several social media chat groups have banned discussing religious issues," said Shih Chien-yu, professor of journalism from Chu Hai College of Higher Education in Hong Kong.

The video appeared just before Beijing kicks off the annual meetings of the National People's Congress on March 5-15 and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a top political advisory body, on March 3-13.

It also came soon after the Chinese security forces conducted at least three mass rallies in Xinjiang and released plans to track vehicles in the region. They also deployed thousands of security personal in the region to fight radicalization and terrorism.

Imad Moustapha, Syria's Ambassador to China, told media that there are estimated to be more than 5,000 Chinese fighters in Syria. IS has suffered a setback in the Middle East recently and some observers have anticipated that its Uighur members, who were fighting in the area, may return to China and pose a threat to Xinjiang or the whole country, he said.

Uighurs have resented Chinese rule ever since the Communist Party annexed their country in 1949 and flooded the region with Han Chinese immigrants. Xinjiang's Uighurs used to practice a moderate form of Islam but, as China opened up, a more conservative brand has emerged and an increased determination to liberate themselves from Chinese rule.

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