CHINA / DIPLOMACY
Whitewashing terror groups on Xinjiang ‘will backfire on US’
Published: May 17, 2021 12:56 AM
Armored vehicles move during a joint anti-terrorist exercise held by China and Kyrgyzstan frontier forces in Kizilsu Kirgiz Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 27, 2017. The drill, carried out under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), was witnessed by representatives from Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all the SCO member countries. (Xinhua/Wang Fei)

Armored vehicles move during a joint anti-terrorist exercise held by China and Kyrgyzstan frontier forces in Kizilsu Kirgiz Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 27, 2017. The drill, carried out under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), was witnessed by representatives from Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all the SCO member countries. (Xinhua/Wang Fei)



 Turning a blind eye to its nature as terrorist group and attempting to whitewash its ties with al-Qaeda, the US' double standards on anti-terrorism will backfire, analysts warned in referring to CNN's latest report on exonerating the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorist group.

By citing some former Uygur detainees from the US infamous human rights abuse center - the Guantanamo Prison, CNN claimed in a report released on Saturday that these Uygurs were released for not being "enemy combatants" in Washington's war on terror and they have been "used as excuses" for China to crack down on Uygurs in its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The CNN report said that the US' previous move to add ETIM - an organization that used to be listed as terrorist group and the detained Uygurs were believed to belong to - was due to Chinese pressure, and that its ties with al-Qaeda were "a vast exaggeration."

ETIM was reportedly founded by Hesen Mexsum, a man from Xinjiang's Kashi, in 1997. It has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in several Chinese cities, including the Tiananmen Square car bombing in 2013 in Beijing. 

In 2002, the UN Security Council designated ETIM as a terrorist organization. The same year, the administration of former President George W. Bush designated ETIM as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In July 2016, the UK also listed ETIM as a terrorist organization and in September 2002. However, in a major policy shift on November 5, US former secretary of state Mike Pompeo delisted ETIM.

The CNN report is the US latest move to whitewash ETIM to use it as a tool to contain China and it further betrays the global anti-terrorism effort, analysts criticized, saying that the siren of terrorist acts like the 9/11terror attacks is still sounding and the US should maintain its alert, lest its double-standards on anti-terrorism backfire. 

One of the interviewees in the CNN report is Ahmet Adil, a man from China's Xinjiang who claimed that he never thought to go to Afghanistan but left Xinjiang to Kazakhstan and Pakistan out of economic pressure. Under the suggestion of a man, Adil went to Afghanistan's Jalalabad, where he and some other Uygurs lived and learned to use weapons. 

"Something in Adli's story is very strange - he claimed he left Xinjiang out of economic pressure, but why did he end up in Afghanistan as it had already become an unstable place where it was hard to earn money?" asked Wang Jiang, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Region of China, Zhejiang Normal University. 

Wang told the Global Times that there were indeed some residents from Xinjiang engaged in cross-border trade in the late 1990s and who were later coaxed or coerced to join in jihad in Afghanistan or Syria. Whatever their initial purposes were, their appearance in the region and engagement in militant training and activities can be regarded as terrorist activities from its nature and legal scope, not to mention their political claims, including what CNN referred to as "future revolution" in China's Xinjiang. 

The CNN report tried hard to whitewash ETIM by emphasizing that there is "little" independent evidence to confirm that ETIM was the "black hand" behind terrorists in China's Xinjiang and that the Bush administration designated ETIM as a terrorist groups under China's "pressure."

"ETIM, by its nature and its activities, is definitely a terrorist group. It has plotted and committed terrorist attacks in China and neighboring countries. The US listed it as terror group since it fits the US State Department's definition for terror groups and also poses threat to the US, not because of China's pressure," Li Wei, an expert on national security and anti-terrorism at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

The US government delisted ETIM from being a terror organization not because it is no longer a terror group but because ETIM can be used to cause more trouble to China's Xinjiang and therefore helps the US to contain China, Li noted. 

In response to CNN's trying to downplay ties between al-Qaeda and ETIM, Li said there is abundant evidence to refute CNN's claims. 

A documentary released by CGTN in December 2019 showed that since its establishment, ETIM has maintained close ties with other international terrorist organizations. Evidence has been found that ETIM received significant support from al-Qaeda, and previously from Osama bin Laden. 

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

A video uploaded online showed that Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri praised the people from China's Xinjiang for their dedication to "waging jihad" around the globe.

Wang warned that many ETIM members are turning to the network due to the strict crackdown in recent years. Some are joining other foreign terrorist groups and some are taking in anti-China forces' campaign to smear China for allegedly "oppressing" Uygurs - using NGOs or other non-violent groups to disguise their identity.

The US' delisting of ETIM as a terror group and the current move trying to whitewash it fully exposes its double standards and hypocrisy. It is using anti-terrorism as political tools - when it needed to have military operations in Afghanistan, it listed certain organizations as a terror group, and when the situation changed, it reversed its previous decision.  

The US' move not only betrays the Chinese people and the international community who stood firmly with Americans after the 9/11 attack, but will also impede global anti-terror work, Wang said. 

"The most ironic thing about the CNN report is that if the US does believe these Uygurs released from the Guantanamo Bay are not a threat to it, why does it not allow them to stay in the US? Considering all these people's tragedies are caused by the US, why do they insist these people live in other countries with restrictions like they are in an 'open-air' prison?" Wang asked.  


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