Call for cooperation coincides with Saddam Hussein capture
China has released a list of individuals and groups campaigning for independence for the northwestern Muslim region of the country that it designates terrorist organizations, calling on the international community for cooperation against them, RFA reports.
Beijing's announcement came just one day after the United States announced the capture of the ousted Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao repeated the call for international assistance against Uyghur independence organizations on Tuesday.
"The Chinese government hopes that the international community will support China's efforts to combat terrorism," Liu told a regular Foreign Ministry briefing. "And it calls on all governments, especially law enforcement agencies, to take legal action against those organizations which China has determined as terrorist organizations, to ban their activities in their territories, forbid support, financing and harboring of these organizations and to freeze their assets," he said.
Liu said that China wanted to step up its international cooperation on the fight against terrorism, including cooperation through diplomatic, intelligence, and military channels, but he stopped short of saying whether Beijing would request the extradition of those it had named terrorists.
China's Ministry of Public Security on Monday named four groups campaigning for self-rule in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which Uyghur activists refer to as East Turkestan.
"They have planned, organized, and carried out a series of violent terrorist activities such as bombings, assassinations, arsons, poisonings, and attacks," Zhao Yongchen, deputy chief of the ministry's anti-terror bureau, said in a statement.
He called on the international community to ban the groups, stop them from getting support or asylum, freeze their accounts, and prosecute wanted individuals and extradite them to China.
One of the organizations was the East Turkestan Information Center (ETIC), which runs a prominent news Web site on Uyghur affairs. The other three were named as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), and World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC).
The bureau also named: Hasan Mahsum; Muhanmetemin Hazret; Dolqun Isa; Abudujelili Kalakash; Abudukadir Yapuquan; Abudumijit Muhammatkelim; Abudula Kariaji; Abulimit Turxun; Huadaberdi Haxerbik; Yasen Muhammat; and Atahan Abuduhani.
It accused ETIC of secretly sending information on how to conduct violent terrorist activities back to a network within the Chinese border, and claimed it was using its information role as a facade for these activities.
"The ETIC openly advertises religious extremist ideas in articles it published, including 'Is There Hope for Our Independence' and 'To Win Independence or to Die'," Zhao said, adding that the organization had called on Muslims in Chinese territory to employ explosives and poisons in attacks on kindergartens and schools of the ethnic Han population and government establishments, and to attack Chinese armed forces.
The Germany-based ETIC English-language Web site carried reports of China's announcement, including a reaction from its own spokesman. Dilxat Raxit denied any involvement in violence.
"China's anti-terrorism activities cannot be believed," Raxit was quoted as saying. "We hope that Western countries don't fall into the trap set by the Chinese government."
Raxit said ETIC was being targeted "because we have been exposing the negative side of the Chinese government." He said China often blames unsolved crimes on the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang. Chinese officials offer little evidence of an organized campaign or of foreign links. Authorities in Xinjiang have told foreign reporters the territory has little separatist violence.
"A lot of people sort of feel that they are using the threat of terrorism to strengthen their control of the region," said Dru Gladney, a specialist on Xinjiang at the University of Hawaii, quoted by AP.
Much of the evidence cited by China was obtained in confessions from suspected operatives, and "we know that China can be very harsh in its treatment of prisoners," Gladney said.
In a recent testimony aired by RFA's Uyghur service after his execution in China, Uyghur independence activist Shirali detailed a litany of torture and abuse at the hands of Chinese prison guards and interrogators. Shirali was accused of membership of ETIM, which was blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations as a terrorist organization after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Uyghurs constitute a distinct, Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority in northwestern China and Central Asia. They declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the late 1940s but have remained under Beijing's control since 1949.
According to a Chinese Government white paper, in 1998 Xinjiang comprised 8 million Uyghurs, 2.5 million other ethnic minorities, and 6.4 million Han Chinese-up from 300,000 Han in 1949. Most Uyghurs are poor farmers, and at least 25 percent are illiterate.