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Uighur Militants

Violent outbreaks in Xinjiang occur sporadically, and the groups that claim responsibility are frequently splintering, merging, and collapsing. Some of the Uyghur groups make claims that are difficult to substantiate. The overall prevalence of deep religious extremism in Xinjiang remains a matter of debate in China. Most people in the remote region practice a more moderate form of Sunni Islam.

In 2009, authorities arrested more than 1,400 Uighurs after protests turned deadly and ethnic riots left nearly 200 people dead. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office in March 2013, the death toll from ethnic violence in Xinjiang and other parts of the country had risen to nearly 300 by mid-2014. Hundreds of ethnic Uighurs had been taken into custody and more than a dozen have already been executed for “violent terrorism” crimes.

In July 2014 Xinjiang saw its most violent week of unrest since 2009. In the last week of July, nearly 100 people were killed in violence the government said was carried out by a gang of violent ethnic Uighur terrorists. The Chinese government did not disclose the deaths for days, prompting overseas Uighur groups to question the government’s version of the events and call for an independent investigation. At least 37 civilians were killed during attacks by masked men carrying knives and axes, including two Uighur officials. Police shot dead 59 alleged terrorists and 215 others were taken into custody. State media reporte those who participated were carrying flags declaring a “holy war”.

By mid-August 2014 China was well on the way to one of its biggest crackdowns in the restive and remote northwestern region of Xinjiang since ethnic riots racked the capital of Urumqi in 2009. Numbers released in state-media reports and in court press releases from the region showed that since May 2014 more than 800 people, most presumably members of Xinjiang's largest minority group, the Uighurs, had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

In 1940, Hizbul Islam Li-Turkistan (Islamic Party of Turkistan or Turkistan Islamic Movement ) emerged in Xinjiang in 1940, and spearheaded a series of unsuccessful uprisings from the 1940s through 1952. Isa Yusuf, represented East Turkistan in the Nationalist Chinese parliament, defending his people from both Soviet and Chinese domination. In 1947 he became the Secretary General of the second East Turkistan Republic, representing his people in their freedom. Isa Yusuf managed to escape the 1949 Chinese purge of Uyghur leaders by traveling to India on foot with his family and almost 2,000 followers.

In 1950, Yimin [Mehmet Emin Bughra], former vice-chairman of the Guomindang Xinjiang Government, and Aisha [Isa Yusuf Alptekin], Secretary-General of the Xinjiang Government, escaped before Xinjiang's liberation. They then established the "East Turkestan Party","The Association of Eastern Turks Overseas" and other organizations. New leadership emerged among the Uighur Islamist nationalists emerged briefly in 1956, during the Hundred Flowers campaign, but the Islamist Uighur movement quickly faded, with only minor expression during the Cultural Revolution.

There was a period of Islamic and ethnic revival in Xinjiang in 1979, reflecting the relative openness of China as Deng Xiaoping was launching China's economic reforms. During this time, one of the original founders of Hizbul Islam Li-Turkistan, Abdul Hakeem, was released from prison and set up underground religious schools.

Among Hakeem's pupils in the 1980s was Hasan Mahsum, who would go on to found the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement [ETIM]. The 1980s were a chaotic period in Xinjiang, with ethnic and religious revivalism and a growing student movement.

The Uighur Nationalist leader, Isa Yusuf Alptekin, died in Istanbul in December 1995 where there is now a park dedicated to his memory. Following the death of the exile East Turkestan leader Isa Yusuf Alptekin, who advocated non-violence and was called the Turkic Dalai Lama, no one has had the authority to prevent militant resistance against Chinese rule in Xinjiang.

By one Chinese account from 1990 to 2001 militants had reportedly committed over 200 acts of terrorism, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries. But some of these acts (such as attacks on Han Chinese) could be regarded as ordinary crimes, robberies and murders, that for political purposes have been marked as "terrorism". Another Chinese report claims "at least two hundred violent terrorist attacks, in which 162 people [.] died and over 440 wounded" from 1992 to 2001" which would imply that there had been no casualties in 1990 or 1991, which is known not to be true.

Other Groups

Eastern Turkistan National Freedom Center

Anwar Yusuf, president of the Eastern Turkistan National Freedom Center, was one of several independence leaders who gathered in Taiwan February 25 to 28, 1998, for public and private meetings and numerous press interviews. Invited by the World Federation of Taiwanese Association in the US, Yusuf was joined by prominent Eastern Turkistani activist Erkin Alptekin; Professor Thubtin Jigme Norbu, elder brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Tashi Jamyangling, former Home Secretary of the Tibetan Government in Exile; and Johnar Bache, Vice Chairman of the Southern Mongolian People's Party. The independence leaders met with leading Taiwanese, in and out of government, including Liu Sung-pan, the president of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan; Shui-Bian Chen, Mayor of Taipei; and Frank C.T. Hsieh, Mayor of Kaosiung.

World Uyghur Congress

Numerous international organizations working for the independence of Xinjiang [under the name of Eastern Turkestan] are based in Amsterdam, Munich, Istanbul, Melbourne, and New York. An organization that seeks to coordinate these disparate movements is the World Uyghur Congress, which met in Washington, DC. The WUC declares a nonviolent and peaceful opposition movement against Chinese occupation of East Turkestan and an unconditional (.) rejection of totalitarianism, religious intolerance and terrorism as an instrument of policy.

CHICOM Designated Terrorists

On December 15, 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security formally identified four Uighur organizations as terrorist as well as the names of 11 wanted Uighur terrorists, the first such "terrorist list" provided by the agency. The list includes the Xinjiang-based Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (which the United States and the UN agreed in 2003 to designate as a terrorist organization at China's behest), the Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organization (founded in Turkey in 1996), the World Uighur Youth Congress (founded in Munich, Germany, in 1996), and the East Turkestan Information Center (also founded in Munich in 1996, with an office in Washington, DC). Many international observers dispute Chinese claims linking these groups to terrorism. Chinese concerns were focused largely on two terrorist outfits, the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO).

The MPS stated that it has incontrovertible evidence that each listed group has organized and executed specific terrorist acts in Xinjiang and that these groups are all linked to each other and the al-Qaida network. Following the release of the list, the Chinese Government called for international assistance in China's fight against these organizations and individuals, requesting that the assets of the groups be frozen, that the organizations be outlawed, and that countries stop supporting and financing them. Beijing also asked the international community to assist in the investigation, apprehension, and repatriation of the designated individuals.

Calling them "scapegoat terrorists" an Oxford Analytica report concludes that these groups are only a "dubious threat" and have been used as an excuse for increased repression.

Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement
Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP)
Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)
Allah Party [Hizbullah] of East Turkestan
East Turkistan National Revolution Association

East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO)
Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organization

World Uighur Youth Congress

In December 2003 the China's Ministry of Public Security reported that "The "East Turkistan Youth Alliance", a terrorist organization affiliated to the "World Uygur Youth Congress" (WUYC), since its founding in 1993, has engaged in plans of assassinating Party, government and military leaders of the autonomous region, damaging railroads and bridges, bombing, attacking Chinese agencies in foreign countries and disrupting China's borders with India, Tadzhikistan and Afghanistan. The organization also masterminded two bombings in Xinjiang's Kashi and Shache, killing two and injuring 22 altogether."

East Turkestan Information Center

In December 2003 the China's Ministry of Public Security reported that "The "East Turkistan Information Center" has long been engaged, through various means of media, especially the Internet, in spreading, preaching and instigating terrorism, extremism and splittism, calling for "jihad" (holy war) by violent and terrorist means. They openly called on Muslins in China to stage terrorist events targeting kindergarten, school and government building of the Han nationality by means of bombing and poisoning1. In March 2003, they schemed a bombing on the railway linking Gansu's Lanzhou and Xinjiang's Hami."

Other Militant Groups

East Turkestan International Committee
East Turkestan Islamic Party
East Turkestan Islamic Party of Allah
East Turkestan Opposition Party
Free Turkestan Movement
Islamic Holy Warriors
Islamic Reformist Party 'Shock Brigade'
Organization for the Liberation of Uighurstan
Uighur Liberation Organization
United National Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (UNRF)
United Revolutionary Front of Eastern Turkestan
Uyghur Liberation Organization
Uyghurstan Liberation Front
Wolves of Lop Nor
Xinjiang Liberation Organization

In 1997, the Uyghurstan Liberation Front and the United National Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (UNRF) overcame their differences and joined together in a jihad in Xinjiang. The UNRF targets Uyghurs who agree with China, and claimed credit for the assassination of an imam of the mosque in Kashgar in 1996 because of his pro-China views.

A report produced in December 2001 by the US Congressional Research Service documented a number of armed groups operating in the region. This list of armed groups included: the United Revolutionary Front of Eastern Turkestan, the Organization for the Liberation of Uighurstan, the Wolves of Lop Nor, the Xinjiang Liberation Organization, the Uighur Liberation Organization, the Home of East Turkestan Youth and the Free Turkestan Movement.

China's official statement on "East Turkestan terrorists" published in January 2002 listed a number of groups said to be responsible for violence, including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO), the Islamic Reformist Party 'Shock Brigade', the East Turkestan Islamic Party, the East Turkestan Opposition Party, the East Turkestan Islamic Party of Allah, the Uyghur Liberation Organization, the Islamic Holy Warriors and the East Turkestan International Committee.

Committee for Eastern Turkistan

The Committee for Eastern Turkistan, based in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, is among the most radical national movement in Central Asia. The Committee has become more militant and has vowed to intensify their struggle in a bid to free Xinjiang from growing Chinese influence. It was originally formed by Uighur guerrillas who fought against the Chinese in the period of 1944-1949.

Home of East Turkestan Youth

Branded as "Xinjiang's Hamas," the Home of East Turkestan Youth is a radical group committed to achieving the goal of independence through the use of armed force. It has some 2,000 members, some of whom have undergone training in using explosive device in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries.

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Page last modified: 01-10-2020 17:19:59 ZULU