TERRORISM AND BOMBINGS IN CHINA
Anti-terrorist training The terrorism issues has brought the United States and China together. Both countries are for the most part battling the same enemy, Islamic-inspired terrorism.
Terrorism is generally not a big threat in China. Most so-called terrorist activities such as bombings are carried out by individuals or small groups not in an organized movement.
In 2007, China was in the middle of drafting an anti-terrorism law.
The public security budget was raised by nearly a third in 2009 to $4.2 billion in part to address concerns about unrest in Tibet and western China and trouble brought out by unemployed workers and other problems associated with the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009.
In August 2008, 100 victims of terrorism in Israel filed a suit against the Bank of China demanding that it stop transferring money to terrorist groups. The suit filed in a court in Los Angeles claimed the bank “knowingly assisted Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks” by transferring millions to them. The money, the suit claims, helped fund attack between 2004 and 2007. The money originated from the Middle East and was sent to accounts in the United States from a Bank of China branch in Guangzhou, where it was wired to Hamas ands Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article on Terrorism in China Wikipedia ;All Quiet on the Western Front? silkroadstudies.org Human Rights in Xinjiang Human Rights Watch article hrw.org ; Human Rights in Xinjiang Human Rights Watch article hrw.org ; Human Rights in Xinjiang Human Rights Watch article hrw.org; 2009 Report by Overseas Security Advisory Council osac.gov/Reports ; Travel Warnings U.S. State Department Advisories: Travel.State.gov British travel warnings: fco.gov.uk . Australian travel warnings: dfat.gov.au/travel . Travel Advise Web Sites : Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Thorn Tree Links in this Website: XINJIANG Factsanddetails.com/China ; XINJIANG EARLY HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; XINJIANG LATER HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; XINJIANG AND CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; XINJIANG SEPARATISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS Factsanddetails.com/China ; TERRORISM IN XINJIANG Factsanddetails.com/China ; Factsanddetails.com/China ; XINJIANG RIOTS IN 2009 Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE ARMED FORCES Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA AND UNITED STATES Factsanddetails.com/China ; AMERICAN AND CHINESE POLICY Factsanddetails.com/China ;HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China
See United States, China, Human Rights, Politics and Terrorism, United States, International
Bombings in China
Explosions, both accidental and intentional, are common in China. In 1998, there were 2,500 bomb blasts in a nine month period. Among the 30 bombings in a 10 day period in 2001, was a blast at a McDonald’s in the tourist town of Xian that killed five people and injured 28, an explosion at a French department store in Qindao that killed and injured no one and 23 blasts in the Guangdong port cities of Zhanjiang and Jiangmen.
Many explosions are not related to terrorism. Easy-to-obtain industrial explosives are often used in attacks blamed on gangsters, jilted lovers and others and used to settle grievances. In past years, disgruntled Chinese citizens have set off explosions near buildings or on buses. Such "sudden incidents", as China refers to them, underscore broader government worries about stability in the world's second-largest economy, with a widening gap between rich and poor and growing anger at corruption and over environmental issues. In March 2001, 108 people were killed in explosions at four apartment housed in Shijazhuang, Hebei Province by a man who was seeking revenge against relatives that angered him.
In May 2002, a China Northern Airlines MD-82 crashed in the Yellow Sea just short of its destination, the coastal city of Dalian, killing 112 people. The crash was blamed on sabotage caused by a passenger who set a fire using gasoline in a soft drink can. Shortly before the crash the pilot radioed there was a fire in the cabin. An investigation figured out the identity of the passenger accused of starting the fire.
In February 2003, two explosions at two universities in Beijing that occurred within two hours of one another and injured nine people. A 27-year-old farmer from Fujian was arrested in connection the blast. No motive was given.
Bombings in China in the Mid 2000s
In January 2006, a suicide bomber blew himself in a courthouse in Gansu Province in western China, killing four and injuring 22. The bomber was a 62-year-old farmer angered by the fact that he was forced to pay his former wife $8,800 as part of a divorce settlement.
In December 2006, two consecutive blasts in a residential area on Jining, a remote city of 200,000 in Inner Mongolia, killed five. Police said the bombings were more likely cases of murder than terrorism
In July 2007, large bomb made with 200 kilograms of mining explosives exploded in a karaoke bar and bathhouse in the town of Tian Shifu in Liaoning Province. Many of the people having a good time inside and some passerby were killed or injured. It was not clear how many died as local censors tried to restrict the news about the event. Local reports said 25 were killed. Local people said 43 were killed. It was not certain who set the bomb. Among those questioned were the mistress of the karaoke owner and gambler who lost a lot of money in the karaokes’s gambling rooms.
In September 2009, a bombmaking factory was found near the Myanmar
American Injured by Explosion in Dongzhimen
In October 2010, the South China Morning “A explosion on a footpath injured an American pedestrian in one of the busiest business districts in Beijing yesterday, state media reported. The explosion took place near a newsstand at Dongzhimen, site of an ancient city gate but now a bustling spot with office buildings, restaurants and shopping centres, at about 3.20pm, Xinhua reported. [Source: Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, October 22, 2010]
“Police said a 30-year-old American passerby, who is on a student pass, was slightly injured in the leg. He was taken to hospital. A report posted on the China Central Television website said white smoke rising as high as five storeys was seen after the blast. There was no fire. No remnants of the container that might have held the explosive material or traces of chemicals were found.
The blast left a hole as large as a wash basin on the plastic wall of the newsstand. Fragments of decorative plants were scattered on the footpath. The report said the explosion occurred less than two meters away from the newsstand. The report, and other internet postings, were removed later, however. Workers at a nearby Sichuan restaurant said they heard a loud bang. Police arrived soon after, setting up blockades and causing more traffic woes on the already congested roads.
A waitress said she felt as if bees were buzzing in her head after the blast. "I still feel a little dizzy," she said. The restaurant where she works is about 50 meters from the explosion site and is on the third floor of a glass building.
A spokesman for Beijing Public Security Bureau said they had no comment pending the investigation. Speculation was rife over the cause of the explosion, with some postings on the internet linking it to a terrorist attack. However, others ruled out such a possibility as Beijing is the most guarded city on the mainland. There was also talk that the blast might have been due to an electrical fault or caused by vapour leaks from ageing heating pipes, many of which are undergoing checks as winter draws near.
Bombing by Disgruntled Gansu Bank Teller
In May 2011, a bank cashier in the town of Tianzhu in Gansu province in northwestern China who was fired for stealing money threw a gasoline bomb inside the bank, injuring dozens of people, some of whom jumped from a fifth-storey window to escape, the local government said. A suspect, Yang Xianwen, fled but was caught by police about nine hours later a short distance away, the government said. [Source: Associated Press, May 13, 2011]
AP reported: “Employees of the Tianzhu County Rural Credit Co-operative Union were meeting at about 8 a.m. when Yang threw the gasoline bomb, the propaganda office of the county's Communist Party said in a statement. Forty-nine 40 people were hurt, 19 seriously. The county said some of the injured jumped from the meeting room window onto a three-storey building.
The statement said Yang was fired last month for embezzling bank money. A witness reached by phone and the official Xinhua News Agency described ambulances and police streaming to the scene. The injured, with visible burns, were carried out of the building on stretchers, according to a witness quoted by Xinhua. More than 80 police were involved in the search for Yang, who was cornered at the county waterworks, the county government said.
Explosions in Jiangxi City
In May 2011, Reuters reported: “Explosions at three sites near government buildings in an eastern Chinese city have damaged 10 cars and injured at least five people, state media has reported. The cause of the near-simultaneous blasts in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, was blamed on a disgruntled farmer. The blasts shook the prosecutor's office, a government office and the district food and drug administration, Xinhua said. Most of the windows in the eight-storey prosecutor's office were shattered after the explosion less than 100m away, it added. Fuzhou, Jiangxi province should not to be confused with the better known Fuzhou in Fujian Province. [Source: Reuters, The Guardian. May 26, 2011]
According to an article posted on Shanghaiist: “The explosions took place one after the other between 9:18 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. -- the first at the carpark of the prosecutors’ office, the second inside an administration building and the third near a food and drug administration office. Two were killed from the blasts, including the bomber himself, and another ten people injured. [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]
One villager, Zhang Weizhang, believed that a discontented local resident was to blame. "There are plenty of people complaining about the government. They ignore complaints. They've ignored mine," said Zhang, who said he was in a dispute over forestry rights in Fuzhou's Linchuan district. "But nobody ordinary would do something like this. This isn't normal for here." Fuzhou's Communist party boss, Gan Liangmiao, told officials in October that they must "firmly establish the idea that stability comes before all else and stability comes higher than anything else", the Fuzhou Daily said at the time. [Source: Reuters, The Guardian. May 26, 2011]
Jiangxi province is home to many mines, which use explosives, and fireworks manufacturers. Chinese farmers have been at the centre of many incidents of unrest and protest, with anger frequently focused on land grabs to make way for infrastructure projects or commercial buildings. Last year, three people set themselves on fire in a Jiangxi county, not far from Fuzhou, to try to stop officials forcing them out of their homes to make way for a bus station. [Ibid]
Sad Story of the Jiangxi Bomber
According to an article posted on Shanghaiist: The bomber has been identified as 52-year-old unemployed Fuzhou native Qian Mingqi, and the trail of internet activity he has left behind tells of a man who has been actively trying to seek redress for the loss of his property which he says was illegally demolished by authorities, causing him to lose over 2 million yuan.” [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]
On his Sina Weibo profile, Qian has a picture of himself standing on Tiananmen Square. He describes himself thus in the About field: "I am healthy, mentally normal, and have never committed any crimes to date. My newly-built house was illegally and forcibly demolished, causing me massive losses. Ten years of fruitlessly trying to seek redress have forced me to go on a path I did not wish to take."Teaching himself how to use the internet, Qian also created multiple profiles on other microblog platforms, following lawyers, reporters, human rights defenders, academics, police departments and anyone else he thought might be able to help him. [Ibid]
The retweets on his various microblog profiles indicate that not only was Qian unable to get the attention of those he was following, he was exposed to many of the other injustices that go on daily in China -- children getting kidnapped, old people attacked by police, migrant workers denied their wages, killing sprees in schools, and many other villagers, who like him, had their homes forcibly demolished. Those stories appear to have led him to believe that unless he took drastic action for himself and others like him, his story would never see the light of day. And so, Qian began to hatch his plan to execute a protest in the most dramatic fashion he thought possible. [Ibid]
On his microblogs, Qian gave multiple hints as to what he was up to. In a recent posting (see right) timed May 25 just past midnight, he told his followers to be on the lookout for "explosive news" that was going to happen soon in Jiangxi. The cause of this incident, Qian said, is a man by the name of Xi Dongsen (???), the current mayor of Fuzhou's Linchuan District, who in 2002 was the party's discipline secretary for the district, responsible for overseeing the demolition and relocation projects in the area which amounted to RMB10 million. At the end of the post, Qian says, "I do not wish to be another Qian Yunhui or Xu Wu, but I want to use action to remove evil-doers for the people. Qian Mingqi beseeches you to share this post for justice after the incident!" [Ibid]
In a separate post, Qian said poignantly, "Even if I go to heaven, I'm going to take a few of my enemies along with me!" Qian also appears to have gained contact over Weibo with the Zhong family involved in last year's self-immolation incident which took place in Fuzhou, but in a separate county called Yihuang. Qian's contact with the Zhongs was likely to have heightened his sense of despair at the injustices taking place around him and further strengthened his resolve to do something dramatic. [Ibid]
Sympathy for the Jiangxi Bomber
The outpouring of sympathy for Qian online has been massive, according to Shanghaiist. His profile on Sina Weibo alone attracted over 25,000 followers overnight. Many have pored through his postings in an attempt to look into what went through his mind in the last few months. In their condolence messages left on his account, some netizens have called him a "hero of the people", a "good person", and a "real man who sacrificed himself for others". Others have decried Sina Weibo moderators for their "inhumane" deletion of some of Qian Mingqi's tweets, arguing that the man's trail of internet activity should be left online. [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]
The fear now is that more victims of injustices will be pushed over the edge when they see Qian Mingqi's path as the only one that they can take. In a related incident just hours after the Fuzhou explosions, netizens on Weibo wondered aloud if a former policeman would become a Qian Mingqi-copycat when he sent an open tweet to his lawyers that appeared to contain his last words. In it, he said he was giving up on his three-year search to seek redress for wrongful dismissal, and that they should speak up for him if anything untoward should happen to him. Hours later, the man reappeared on Weibo, confessing that the Qian Mingqi case had almost caused him to lose his rationality, and that his crying wife and daughter had found him by the lake, where he almost took his own life. [Ibid]
TERRORISM IN XINJIANG
Militants fighting for a free “East Turkestan” have been labeled as terrorists and been blamed for setting off explosives, training terrorists, smuggling arms and stirring up riots. Although the government publically has dismissed Islamic extremist as "disgruntled farmers with fertilizer bombs” it takes their threat quite seriously.
September 11th and the war on terrorism, gave China an opportunity to cast a localized Uighur separatist movement as an international terrorist threat. China described itself as a “victim of international terrorism,” blamed unrest in Xinjiang on Osama bin Laden and asked the United States to include ETIM on its lists of terrorist organizations. At first Washington refused but when it sought support for its activitie sin Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq it changed its position and included the group on the terrorist list.
James Miflor, a professor at Georgetown and expert on Xinjiang, told National Geographic that many officials believe Xinjiang faces a serious terrorist threat because that “is what they are constantly told.”
In one speech Osama bin Laden called Chinese “pagan Buddhists.” It is hard to gage the support of Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden because the Chinese Muslims are so afraid to speak their minds. But some have expressed sympathy for the Taliban and said there is not solid proof to link Osama bin Laden with September 11th.
The authoritarian government in Beijing has tried over the past decade to link its struggle against Xinjiang separatism to the wider U.S.-led campaign against militant Islamic terrorism. Some among the more radical Uighurs trained in Taliban camps in Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001 and since then moved across the border in Pakistan. Yet critics have said that Beijing is using the counterterrorism campaign to suppress nonviolent calls for independence and that its controls on the practice and teaching of Islam, the influx of Chinese migrants and security drills have served to exacerbate resentment among more moderate Uighurs.
Terrorist Groups in Xinjiang
Many scholars think that there is no organized Islamic terrorist group in Xinjiang and the various bombings and attacks have been local in nature and carried out by individuals or small groups that had some local grievance. At most there are several small groups with similar goals. If there is a large organized group it appears to lack the personnel and weaponry to carry out a sophisticated attack. James Millward of Georgetown University told the Washington Post, “The degree of organization of Uighur groups or East Turkestan separatist groups is a big question among many experts outside of China.”
Beijing has said there are more than 50 “terrorist” groups fighting for independence in Xinjiang and claims that 1,000 members of 10 different groups have undergone training at camps in Afghanistan, with some returning to Xinjiang and elsewhere in China and set up secret cells.
Millward and many Western analysts say the problem in Xinjiang is not a religious problem but a civil rights problems that has to do with Uighurs feeling discriminated against and not getting job opportunities.
The Chinese view the problem differently. Yu Jianrong of the Institute of Rural Development in the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the Washington Post: “The main and core issue is separatism, although it combines some farmer and land problems...We cannot regard this purely as citizens trying to protect their rights.”
Whenever there is an attack or an arrest the Chinese government says that the attackers or the people arrested are members of the ETIM (See Below) or are Uighur separatist but offer no evidence to back up their claims other than those involved were Uighurs.
Al- Qaida, Xinjiang and China
Beijing does have justifiable concerns. Xinjiang borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, the home of many Muslim extremist and members for Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Many think the interests of Beijing would be better served if the government focused crackdowns and their paramilitary activity on Pakistan-based militant groups that slip across the border into Xinjiang and talk the more moderate a Uighur groups.
American sources believe that maybe 600 or 700 Uighurs passed through the Al-Qaeda Afghanistan camps and/or fought with the Taliban. Those that were captured were young and in their 20s and 30s described as very naive. They mostly didn’t want have anything to do with Al-Qaeda and were generally supportive of the United States because it pressured China.
After the riots in Urumqi in July 2009, an Algeria-based Al-Qaida arm—Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb— said it would avenge the deaths if Muslims in Urumqi by targeting Chinese working in North Africa. It was the first time that Al-Qaida directly threatened China or its interests.
In October 2009, Al-Qaida leader Abu Yahia al-Libi called on Uighurs to rise up and launch a jihad against Beijing
Chinese Respond to Death of Bin Laden
Following Osama bin Laden's killing by U.S. commandos, Beijing renewed its appeals for international cooperation, though Chinese foreign policy experts have voiced concern that with the terror leader gone, the United States will devote more efforts to containing China's growing ambitions.
Beijing officially hailed the killing of the terrorist leader by the U.S. as "a milestone and a positive development for the international anti-terrorism efforts.” "Terrorism is the common enemy of the international community. China has also been a victim of terrorism," foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying after bin Laden's death. She was referring to Xinjiang, where Muslim separatists have been waging a bloody insurgency against Chinese rule.
Antoaneta Becker wrote in Inter Press Service, “ Almost simultaneously with the spread of the news of Osama Bin Laden's death in a covert U.S. operation in Pakistan, Chinese analysts had begun the guessing game of where Washington will focus its attention next. "Why didn't they catch him alive?" speculated military affairs analyst Guo Xuan. "Because he was no longer needed as an excuse for Washington to take the anti-terror war outside of the U.S. borders. It is because of Bin Laden that the U.S. were allowed to increase their strategic presence in many places around the world as never before. But Libya and NATO's attack there have changed the game. They (the U.S.) no longer need bin Laden to assert their authority." [Source: Antoaneta Becker, Inter Press Service, May 6, 2011]
Even before bin Laden's death, Beijing had expressed concern that the U.S. strategists are diverting their attention from the war on terror to containing the rise of China and other emerging economies. A long article on Libya stalemate published by the editor of Contemporary International Relations magazine, Lin Limin, argued that the U.S. has been unwilling to take the lead role in the Libya conflict because it has "finally woken up to the fact that its main reason to worry are the emerging countries. [Ibid]
"If the U.S. position on Libya is not only a tactical stance but a strategic one and they have really come to understand that they should not waste military power and energy in numerous directions 'spreading democracy' all over the world but should begin focusing their attention on the rise of emerging countries, then we do have a reason to worry," Lin argued. [Ibid]
The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has always been a controversial one for Chinese politicians. China joined the global war on terror because bin Laden's political agenda of setting up an Arab caliphate and sponsoring terrorism presented a direct threat to its restive Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang. But Beijing has been suspicious of the U.S. intentions, worrying that Washington is pursuing a broader agenda for long-term presence in the region, which China regards as its backyard. [Ibid]
Chinese public reaction to the news of bin Laden's death has mixed reluctant admiration at the success of the secret mission played out reportedly on screens in front of U.S. President Barack Obama with outright fear over what comes next. "The whole thing seemed like an intelligence operation lifted straight out of '24 hours' (a TV series about U.S. counter-terrorism agents)," said Huang Mei, a TV producer with barely concealed awe. "How advanced and confident they must be to ask their President to watch the killing mission on screens live!" [Ibid]
But some see bin Laden's demise as a blow to efforts to promote a school of Anti-American thought. "The great anti-America fighter bin Laden was murdered by the U.S.! How sad!" wrote one commenter on Sina’s popular Weibo micro-blogging site. "Is this real? Excellent!" wrote another of the news. "Now the only terrorist left is the United States!" [Ibid]
East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has been placed in the United States’s list of terrorist organizations. Many believe the group was singled out by the Bush administration to curry favor with Beijing for its fight on terrorism and win support from China on the war in Iraq.
ETIM’s aim is to establish an Islamic state in Xinjiang and said it is committing to using violence because peaceful methods have not produced any results. The group is small and obscure. Most Uighurs have never heard of it. Washington has accused it of planning to attack Western embassies in Kyrgyzstan. Beijing says it has ties with Al Qaeda.
Little is known about ETIM. Its leader abroad is Hasan Mahsum. Mahsum admits some members received training in Al-Qaida camps but they are believed to have been more active in the struggle involving the Taliban in Afghanistan than in terrorism in China. Those that believe ETIM exists and is active think it has about 40 member based in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where Al-Qaida members and Taliban are have sough refuge. Some think it never existed.Dru Gladney of Pomona College told the New York Times he thinks that ETIM may have as few as 10 members,
The leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, denied his group had ties with Al-Qaida but he was killed in 2003 by the Pakistani army in what the Pakistanis described as a raid on an Al-Qaida hideout.
After the leader of ETIM was killed in 2003, members organized into similar groups, including the Turkestan Islamic Party and received training from Al-Qaida in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
ETIM has very little support among ordinary Uighurs, less than 1 percent by some estimates, The Chinese government has to be careful not to crack down on Uighurs too hard out f fear of radicalizing them.
Beijing wants to the ETIM, the Istanbul-bases Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organization; The World Uighur Youth Congress; and the East Turkestan Information Center to be recognized aborad as “terrorist organizations” and shut down,
Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP)
Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) is regarded as an offshoot of ETIM. After the Urumqi riots in 2009 it urged Muslims to attack Chinese interests both at home and abroad in retaliation for the “barbaric massacre” and “genocide” of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. It also threatened attacks during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
After the riots in Urumqi in July 2009, Seyfullah, the military leader of TIP urged Muslims to attack Chinese interests both at home and abroad in retaliation for the “barbaric massacre” and “genocide” of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. “Know that this Muslim people have men who will take revenge for them,” Seyfullah said in a video message, “Soon, the horsemen of Allah will attack you, Allah Willing, So lie in wait; indeed, we lie in wait with you.” The group had previously announced it would stage attacks during the 2008 Olympics.
Before the Olympics the TIP released a video with a burning Olympic logo and a warning to Muslims not to attend the games, presumably to prevent them from being caught up in violence the group planned.
According to InterCenter, a private group that monitors militant and terrorist groups on the Internet, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) is the same group as the ETIM. As proof it said it found a picture of ETIM’s supposed founder Hasan Mahsum on the TIP website with a TIP acronym in the photo. IntelCenter told the New York Times that the name ETIM has been used by China, the United Nations and other organizations but was never used by the group itself. It originally called itself the East Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIP) but after 2000 removed the “East” from its name.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or the Party of Liberations, is believed to be active in Xinjiang. It is the most widespread radical Islamic group in Central Asia. Believed to have thousands of followers, it wants to create utopian Muslim society called a caliphate that it hopes will take root in Central Asia and then spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa too.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir is believed to have around 15,000 to 20,000 members in Central Asia. Founded in the Middle East in 1952 as a Leninist, anti-royalist revolutionary party , it made inroads into Central Asia after the after the collapse of the Soviet Union perhaps because it was Islam with a socialist aspect. Among its elements are creating utopian communities and establishing strict Islamic law that requires segregation between men and women. It also wants a return to the gold standard and calls for jihad against Israel and non-believers even though it insists it is non-violent.
Many Western analysts accept Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s claim that is non-violent. The group claims it can establish a Islamic state in three stages: 1) educates Muslims about its ideology; 2) spread these views into the government; and 3) topple secular regimes from the inside.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir s believed to be behind attacks in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is outlawed in Uzbekistan and has been accused by the Uzbekistan government of inspiring terrorist attacks. It operates legally in Britain but is banned in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but operated fairly open in the Osh area of Kyrgyzstan. . Authorities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have tried to suppress it.
As for China and Xinjiang, Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights watch told Reuters, “The organization is extremely resilient and its influence, although limited to southern Xinjiang, seems to be growing...The prison authorities are also worried about the influence of Hizbut followers on other inmates.
In 2001, Beijing claimed it arrested two Islamic extremist members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Urumqi and Hotan. Some think that Hizb ut-Tahrir was responsible for organizing the protests in Khotan in 2008.
The Chinese government regards Hizb ut-Tahrir as a threat and calls it a terrorist group. Police have spray painted slogans on walls that warn against having anything to do with the group. Slogans written in both China and the Uighur language displayed in Kashgar read: “Strike hard against Hizb ut-Tahrir” and “Hizb ut-Tahrir is a violent, terrorist organization.” A posting in a Kashgar government website reads: “Be very clear about Hizb ut-Tahrir’s reactionary nature. Be very clear about its pervasive and actual threat to Xinjiang and Kashgar.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir insists that its activities in China are non-violent and that the government plays up its threat so it can crack down not only Hizb ut-Tahrir but Muslims in general.
Terrorist Attacks in Xinjiang
Beijing asserts that terrorists fighting for an independent “East Turkestan” have set off more 200 bombs between 1990 and 2006, killing 162 people and injuring 440 and claims that Chinese security forces have foiled attempts to blow up oil fields, power plants and highways in Xinjiang. Human rights groups claim these figures are inflated. Some of the so called terrorist attacks are ordinary murders. When a bombing or violence occurs it is not always clear whether Islamic groups—let alone terrorists or ones with connections to Al-Qaeda—are even involved.
On February 27, 1997, the day of Deng's funeral, three bus bombs went off within minutes of each other in Urumqi, killing nine and injuring 68. In the same month separatist also tried to sabotage equipment at the Donghetang oil field in southern Xinjiang. A month later a bus was blown in Beijing, injuring 10.
In April 2001, Islamic terrorists were blamed for slashing the throats of a Kashgar prosecutor and his wife. Around the same time a five-member Islamic group planted a bomb in a brick factory in Khotan. One worker suffered leg injuries.
In August 2001, after alleged murders were cornered at a peasant house in Kuqa, a gun battle broke out that left three terrorists and one policeman dead. Police said they found explosive and guns in a tunnel below the house. An investigation by a human rights groups fund that the men had planed to raise an Uighur flag at a government building and had no connections with any terrorist group.
In February 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself at a department store in Urumqi, injuring three people. The bomber was a migrant worker who had not been paid his wages not an Islamic separatist. Many bombings in China in fact the work of individuals with a grudges not terrorists.
In January 2005, 11 people were killed when a bomb on bus exploded in the city of Karamay, 250 miles northwest of Urumqi, in Xinjiang
Attacks in Xinjiang Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Attacks blamed on Muslim terrorists, mostly in Xinjiang, before and during the Beijing Olympics in August 2008 left 39 dead. The attacks were all directed at police or security forces and seem to have been purposely timed to coincide with the Olympics. Nevertheless no group claimed responsibility for the attack which involved crude bombs and knives.
There were four attacks that resulted in deaths in Xinjiang. Because several of the attacks were directed at police station some analysts believe the attacks may have been personal vendettas.
The attacks received little media attention in China as not to affect the good feeling occurring in the Olympics.
The attacks also called into question China’s hardline policy in Xinjiang, which had failed to prevent attacks and may be encouraging them among the usually moderate Muslims.
Turkestan Islamic Party and Attacks in Yunnan
Before the Olympics in Beijing in August 2008, a group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party released a video threatening to disrupt the Olympics in Beijing and claimed responsibility for several attacks: 1) the deadly explosions on two Chinese buses in Shanghai in May; 2) “action against police” in Wenzhou in July with a tractor loaded with explosives; 3) the bombing of a plastics factory in Guangzhou; and 4) the bombing of two buses in July in Kunming, Yunnan that killed two and injured 14, most with shattered ear drums.
In Kunming, separate bombs blew up on two different buses, one at 7:10 am and another at 8:05am. The blasts were powerful enough to blow holes in the sides of the buses. In both cases, the explosions were caused by ammonium nitrate was wrapped in something under the seats. Some people received a text message on their cell phones before the attack that read: “The general mobilization of ants. Hope citizens receiving this message will not take bus lines 54, 64 and 84 tomorrow morning.” The two buses that were attacked were 54 buses. Police launched a massive investigation to find out who was behind the bombing and offered a reward $43,000 for information leading to an arrest.
The Turkestan Islamic Party video, released on the Internet, featured a masked man identified as Commander Seyfullah who said that the attacks were aimed at drawing attention to the group’s demands for an independent Islamic state and end of Chinese repression of Uighurs. Chinese authorities discounted claims made the groups and asserted they merely took credit for attacks carried out by other people.
Another video released by the group on the Internet showed a burning Olympic logo and an explosion superimposed over one of the Olympic venues. A man holding an assault rife, who identified himself as Abdullah Mansour, said in the Uyghur language: “We, members of the Turkestan Islamic Party have declared war against China. We oppose China’s occupation of our homeland of East Turkestan, which is part of the Islamic world.”
Some think the Turkestan Islamic Party, which wants independence for Xinjiang, is based in Pakistan, where some its key leaders may have received some Al-Qaida training. Other say its is the same as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Attack in Kashgar
In July 2008, four days before the Olympics in Beijing began, 16 Chinese border police officers were killed in Kashgar in one of the deadliest terrorist attack in China ever. Two men—aged 28 and 33—rammed a dump truck into a group of 70 police officers jogging outside the Yiqan Hotel near their barracks. After the truck hit a roadside pole the two leapt out of the truck and began lunging at officers with knives. One tried to throw a home-made explosive at wounded policemen but the device detonated early and blew off his arm. The other threw a home-made bomb at the gate of a police station. Fourteen police officers were killed on the spot. Two more died of their wounds on the way to the hospital. Sixteen others were injured.
The attack was the most serious act of ethnic violence since the 1990s. It took place right in the middle of Kashgar on a major street near the main market and mosque. The two attackers, one with a leg injury and the other with blown off arm, were arrested. According to the government both were Uighurs. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The next day Kasghar was pretty much back to normal except for a stepped up police presence.
Chinese officials said the attack was carried out by members of ETIM. Some scholars doubted this and said the claim was made to give the government an excuse to crackdown on Uighurs before the Olympics and strengthen their grasp on the region. Some believe the attack was more likely carried by disgruntled individuals, not part of an organized terrorist group, that have some grievance with the police.
Two Japanese reporters in Kashgar, investigated the attack two days before the beginning of the Olympics were detained for two hours, roughed up (one of the reporters said he was kicked in the face) and had their equipment destroyed. Three unattributed photographs—possibly taken by a tourist at a nearby hotel and released by AP a couple weeks after the incident—show dead police officers on the ground and overturned truck. They appear to support the Chinese account of the attack.
Attack in Kuqa
In August, two days after the Olympics began, bombers hit 17 sites—including a police station, government building, bank and shops—in the ancient Silk Road city of Kuqa in Xinjiang, leaving 12 dead, including a security guard, a bystander and 10 attackers, including a woman. Another woman attacker, who was injured, and a man were captured. Three men escaped. Of the attackers that died, eight were killed by police and two blew themselves up. The involvement of women in the attack was unusual.
The attackers in Kuqa—using homemade bombs made of bent pipes, gas canisters and liquid gas tanks—launched bombing attacks and fought with police in raids between 2:00am and 8:00am. In the largest attack, attackers drove a three-wheeled vehicle carrying explosives into a compounds of the public security bureau at about 2:30am. An explosion followed that killed a security guard, injured two policemen and two civilians and destroyed two police vans. Police open fired on the attackers, killing one. Another blew himself up. A third was captured. Six hours later five other attackers were found hiding under a counter in market. The men hurled bombs at police, who shot and killed two men while the other three killed themselves.
Kuqa is popular with foreign tourist who come to view Buddhist caves on the outskirt of the city. One 45-year-old resident told the New York Times, “I woke up to the sounds of blasts, one after another. First I head several blasts, then I heard some gunshots. One of my son’s classmates who lives in another neighborhood even had a piece of bomb fall on his doorstep.” A local Uighur working at a shop told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Every time a bomb exploded, police vehicles rushed to the scene. I thought something extraordinary must have happened.” No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
Other Attacks in Xinjiang Around the Time of 2008 Olympics
Two days after the Kuqa attack, three security officers were stabbed to death and another wounded in an attack at a checkpoint in the town of Yamanya about 30 kilometers from Kashgar. In the attack, one or more assailants jumped off a vehicle passing the road check point and stabbed the officers.
In late August 2008, after the Olympics were over, an attack in a village Jiashi County in Xinjiang, left two policemen dead and seven injured. The attackers—seven men and one woman—suddenly leapt out and attacked the officers, armed with clubs, while they were searching a corn field for a woman believed to be a member of a separatist cells. One was captured.
All of the officers who were attacked where Uighurs not Han Chinese. One of them told the Washington Post by phone” “I heard my colleague yell to me, ‘Run, run!’...I saw one person carrying a knife pursuing me. I escaped very quickly through a field to get though to a village.”
Police identified the cornfield attackers as being members of the same group that carried out the attacks that left three security officers dead. Three days later police said they found the alleged attackers near Kashgar, again in a cornfield, and shot six of them dead and wounded three as they tried to defend themselves with knives, and arrested them. Uighur groups say the suspects were gunned down with submachine guns after they surrendered.
Arrests and Executions in Xinjiang
By some estimates 1,000 people have been killed and 10,000 have arrested in crackdowns on suspected separatists and terrorists. According to exiled separatists in Kazakstan, 57,000 suspected pro-independence supporters, including academics and clerics, were arrest in 1996.
Accused terrorists are often executed. In 1997, 16 people were executed in Xinjiang for Muslim unrest. An additional 20 people wee executed in 1996 for the rolls in Yining riots and Urumqi bombings. According to Amnesty International, Xinjiang is only place where executions are carried out for political crimes. One Amnesty International listed 210 death sentences and 190 executions between 1997 and 2000. Most were Uighurs
The Chinese have arrested thousands of Uighurs and confiscated weapons and explosives. Xinjiang police claimed in 1996 that they arrested 2,773 suspected terrorists and seized 6,000 pounds of explosives and confiscated 31,000 rounds of ammunition.
In June 2005, 10 Uighur activists were arrested and charged with plotting independence and separatism
In January 2007, security forces raided an alleged terrorist “training camp” in Akto in a mountainous area of Xinjiang Province near the Pakistan border, claiming that 18 militants were killed and 17 were arrested. Police said they found a cache of grenades, guns and handmade explosives, evidence of ties with international terrorists, and said the camp was run by ETIM. Human rights groups have doubts about the claims.
Beijing’s crackdown it seems have largely been successful. The bombings, protests and unrest that occurred in the 1990s now seem like events in the distant past. But some say resentment has only been driven underground. Dru Gladney, an expert of western China at Pomona Collage, told the Los Angeles Times, “They put out the fire. But the embers are smoldering. And unless they address hearts and minds, it will flare again.” One Uighur man in Khotan told Reuters, “Even for small things you hear about people being taken away. So any kind of bigger incident I don’t think could happen here.”
In November 2007, six Uighurs tied to Hizb ut-Tahrir were given prison sentences from death to life in prison on charges of “splittism and organizing and leading terrorist groups.” One of the men that was found guilty of “carrying out extremist religious activities and promoting ‘jihad,’” was accused of establishing a terrorist training base and preparing to set up an Islamic caliphate.
Terrorism, Xinjiang and the United States
Before September 11th and the war in Iraq, many Chinese Muslims regarded the United States as a friend and a supporter of their fight for more freedom and autonomy. Many listened to Uighur-language broadcast on U.S.-supported Radio Free Asia. These same Chinese Muslims have traditionally been wary of Muslim extremists and have no affection for Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.
Concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in it own backyard, China has supported the United States's war on terrorism. At the same time the actions of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused many to view the United States as bullies that have unfairly singled out Muslims.
The United States’s condemnation of Xinjiang-based Islamic groups has been a propaganda coup for Beijing. After September 11th, the Chinese government stepped up its crackdown on suspected separatists in Xinjiang, targeting groups with connection to terrorists and groups that didn’t have any links. According to Amnesty International, 3000 people were detained in the four months following September 11th. Some were arrested for showing any kind of dissatisfaction with the Chinese government. A few were executed.
Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo
A total of 23 Uighurs were detained at Guantanamo. They ended up in American hands after being captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 and 2002. One said he was a hat maker, another a shoe repairman. Another said he was typist of the Uighur language. Some of their stories raised suspicions and were inconsistent with the stories of others. There were some hints they may have been involved in terrorist activities but no hard evidence against them was ever presented. The Uighurs were shackled to the floor even though there were serious doubts as whether the actually done anything wrong.
Five Uighurs were released from Guantanamo Bay in May 2006 after three years and sent to Albania, the only country that would accept them. As of July 2008 they were living in a tidy house in a refugee camp outside the Albanian capital of Tirana used mainly by refugees from war-torn eastern European countries like Kosovo. The Uighurs were unable to get work and unable to reunite with their families.
During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, the five Uighurs were scooped up by bounty hunters who sold the for $5,000 each to U.S. forces. They deny involvement with the Taliban or Al-Qaida and say there were in Afghanistan to escape oppression and to make their way to a third country and seek a better life. After a couple years at Guantanamo their “enemy combatant” status was taken away, making them available for release. China regards them as terrorists.
As of 2008, seventeen other Uighurs remain in Guantanamo. Their stories are similar to those of the five that were released. Abu Bakker Qassim and A’Del Abdu ak-Hakim, for example, were captured in Pakistan as they fled a Taliban training camp in Afghanistan in 2001. The two men were trained to carry activities against China but said they had no quarrel with the United States. Ten of the Uighurs at Guantanamo were deemed low risk detainees whose beef was with the Chinese Communists not the United States.In October 2008, a U.S. judge ruled that the 17 Chinese Muslims be released immediately and declared the evidence against them was dubious, and said its source may have been the Chinese government.
Palau agreed to take 12 of the 13 Guantanamo-imprisoned Uighur, In November 2009, six Uighurs detained at Guantanamo and still wanted by Beijing arrived in Palau. Two others said they would go.
In October 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hear the cases of Guantanamo-imprisoned Uighurs who wanted to be released in the United States.
Beijing has demanded the return of the Chinese Muslims but the United States has refused to send them to China The Muslims have said they want to be released in the United States and fear they will be tortured or executed if they are sent to China. Source: Thomas B. Allen, National Geographic, March 1996
Image Sources: Mongabey
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated July 2011