China releases English documentary on ETIM terror group’s dark hand in Xinjiang

By Liu Xin and Zhao Juecheng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/7 20:24:37

A local resident dances to the music at a tea house in the ancient city of Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, July 7, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

China released on Saturday an English-language documentary illustrating in detail that the source of terrorist attacks in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorist group and its interactions with other international terrorist groups. 

Titled "The Black Hand - ETIM and Terrorism in Xinjiang," the documentary aired on CGTN on Saturday, one day after the state broadcaster aired a documentary on the overall counter-terrorism work in Xinjiang with many exclusive videos disclosed on Thursday.

The previous documentary attracted public attention once it was released. It has been viewed nearly 30 million times and has sparked debate as of press time. 

Many netizens commented how the two documentaries showed the severe threat of terrorism in Xinjiang and suggested that Western media, which always groundlessly criticizes China's Xinjiang policies and hype the issue in their reports, should watch them instead of deliberately choosing to be silent on the two documentaries 

Chinese experts said Western media only choose to report what fits their interests and ideological correctness and always neglect the truth about Xinjiang. Their silence on the documentaries also demonstrates their double standards in regards to China's counter-terrorism efforts.

Hiding behind

The documentary released on Saturday has three parts on telling China's most direct security threat of terrorism, ETIM's separatist strategy and the long-term fight against terrorism.

The documentary begins with the narration of violent attacks targeting civilians of all ethnic groups that frequently happened in Xinjiang and how the region became a battlefield in China's fighting against terrorism.

The background of development of the ETIM is "Pan-Turkism" and "Pan-Islamism," which were introduced into Xinjiang in the late 19th century. Separatists forces attempted to create an independent state, the so-called "East Turkistan" to split Xinjiang from China. 

The ETIM was reportedly founded by Hesen Mexsum, a man from Xinjiang's Kashi, in 1997. It has claimed responsibilities for a series of attacks in several Chinese cities, including the Tiananmen Square car bombing in 2013 in Beijing, and the terrorist attacks at the Kunming Railway Station in Yunnan Province in 2014. 

Li Wei, a counter-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing told the Global Times that ETIM is one of the four "East Turkistan" terrorist groups identified by China's Ministry of Public Security. The World Uyghur Congress has also got involved with terrorist attacks that happened in China and it is the main organization to defend other terrorist groups. 

In 2002, the UN Security Council designated the ETIM as a terrorist organization. Bank accounts of ETIM members were frozen and assets were seized. 

In December 2003, China's Ministry of Public Security outlawed the ETIM. It was the first time the Chinese government formally recognized that a terrorist group was operating inside the country, the documentary showed. 

In response to some Western countries' allegations on China exaggerating ETIM's threat, the Chinese government refuted them by releasing many videos of terrorist attacks conducted by ETIM. 

Since its establishment, the ETIM has maintained close ties with other international terrorist organizations. 

Chinese police have found evidence that the ETIM has received significant support from al-Qaeda, and previously from Osama bin Laden, according to the documentary. 

ETIM has sent its members to al-Qaeda training camps. Upon completion of training, some of the members have returned to China to conduct terrorist acts.  

According to incomplete data, about 20,000 Chinese have illegally snuck out to join the ISIS in Syria and some experts believe the number is about 50,00 to 10,000, Li said.

The documentary also tells a case which illustrates that ETIM colluded with overseas forces, responsible for many terrorist attacks that happened in Xinjiang. 

Rashid, the main suspect of the terrorist attack at Urumqi South Railway Station in April 2014, was cited in the documentary as saying that he learned how to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from an online video produced by the ETIM. 

Before conducting the terrorist attack, he took a selfie video of him making explosive devices. 

Rashid said he planned to send the video to a "friend" Ismayil Yusup, who was outside China and a member of the ETIM. 

According to the police, Ismayil Yusup was the mastermind of the April 30th attacks at Urumqi Railway Station. He used religion as a cover to recruit members and take spiritual control over them. He then asked them to carry out violent activities while he hid outside the country.

China's police say the April 30th attacks were typical in Xinjiang. Terrorists outside China plot attacks, give orders, spread information online and remotely command attacks in China. 

Photo: Screensgrab of CGTN

Young victims 

Police found the ETIM has produced a large number of online terrorism videos, which cost little and spread quickly. There are lessons on making bombs and training manuals for terrorist attacks.

Li Wei said that the terrorist audio and video materials have led many young people on the road of being obsessed with violence and terrorism. Such materials have served as a catalyst in inciting young people. 

"Counter-terrorism efforts do not merely involve military operations. More importantly, they should aim to stop the spread of extremist ideas among young people," said Li.

Some of the videos seized by police could prove that terrorists indoctrinated children as young as 4 years old with extremist ideas and taught them how to use guns. Terrorists give no choice for these children to have a normal life, except for sacrifice themselves with suicide bombings, Li told the Global Times.

Li said that ETIM terrorists used all methods to brainwash young people, children and women into supporting extremism. 

Police found a video clip from ETIM member Rozalahong's phone, which shows he teaches his two sons how to use guns. The boy who pulls the trigger is only 6 years old and he cries after hearing the gunshot, the documentary showed.  

Nurdun, an ETIM member was cited in the documentary as saying that they teach no knowledge or ethics to these children and raise them in a horrible environment. 

"They are bound to become mindless robots, doing whatever they're told, without regard to the consequences," he said.

China is concerned by the spread of ETIM's online videos and calls for the international community to work together to halt their proliferation.

In 2013, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on members to take specific measures to counter online platforms of terrorist groups.

ETIM and other terrorist groups usually take religious extremism as a banner and use terrorism as a means to foment ethnic division and attempt to separate Xinjiang from China forever, said Shu Hongshui, a professor from Northwest University of Political Science and Law.

International threat 

The ETIM is part of an international terrorist system that does not only threaten China. Experts say terrorists are learning from each other. 

The April 30th attacks in Urumqi share similarity with the March 22nd terrorist bombing in Brussels in 2016, where coordinated suicide bombings occurred at transport hubs, killing over 30 people. ISIL claimed responsibility. 

Western media reports claimed that tensions in Xinjiang are caused by economic and cultural factors. Many focus on ethnic clashes and religious issues but neglect a historical perspective.

Li said that terrorists, who conducted attacks in China or in Western countries, usually wanted to incite clashes between different ethnic groups, religions and cultures. 

Some Western media's reports or analysis on the causes of terrorism do not reflect the truth and hinder global efforts to curb terrorism. 

Li Sheng, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the first step of countering terrorism is to curb terrorism and thwart the terrorists' attempts and the second step is eliminating the ideas and ideology that underpin terrorism, which will take a long time.

Li Wei told the Global Times that for a long time, China has faced a severe challenge in countering terrorism as domestic terrorists collude with forces from abroad, which get support from anti-China forces in some Western countries. 

"China's counter-terrorism work is part of the global effort and its fight against terrorism is not only for China's stability but also makes contribution to the global counter-terrorism work," Li Wei said.   

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