The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) has blasted the Chinese authorities for pinning the blame for a deadly car crash in Tiananmen Square on an Islamic militant group, saying Beijing had distorted the group's statement on the Oct. 28 incident.
The group, calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), had recently released a Uyghur-language video speech from its leader hailing the crash, which had left two tourists dead and injured dozens at the popular site and symbolic heart of the Chinese state.
The WUC, a key Uyghur exile organization, said while the TIP did not claim responsibility for the crash, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had accused the group of claiming credit for the raid.
The WUC said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang had "blindly" commented on the TIP statement without first studying its contents.
“I think he did not hear and watch the video clip with an official translation. If he did it, it is very clear that there is no mention at all in the statement about any claim of responsibility for the attack," said Nurmemet Musbay, WUC's General Secretary. "The TIP had just commented on and hailed the incident.“
Musbay said spokesman Qin Gang had exploited an "opportunity“ at a press conference in Beijing to blame the TIP, and terrorism, for the Tiananmen attack.
Responding to a question, Qin Gang said at the Nov. 25 press conference that the TIP "flagrantly claimed via the terrorist video that its members had carried out the October 28 violent terrorist attack and even threatened to continue to launch terrorist attacks on China's domestic targets."
"It fully reveals its terrorism nature and shows the truth to those who previously questioned the nature of the incident," he said, based on a transcript of the press conference posted on the Foreign Ministry website.
Beijing had earlier blamed another little known group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), for the Tiananmen crash in which the ethnic Muslim Uyghur car driver and his wife and mother, who were in the vehicle, all died.
“Anyone who has basic Uyghur language skills could find out there is no such claim. There was no complicated words or sentences in the statement,” Musbay said.
Memet Tohti, a former special representative of the WUC to the European Union based in Brussels, Belgium, said he had checked the TIP statement and also found the Chinese spokesman's remarks baseless.
“I'm wondering how a state official can comment on a statement without any knowledge about that,” Tohti said. "I listened to the statement repeatedly and couldn’t find any claim regarding the incident."
In his eight-minute video message, TIP leader Abdullah Mansour, while commenting on the Tiananmen raid, warned that there could be new targets of attacks in China, naming even the Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese parliament meets and China's Communist Party holds legislative and ceremonial activities, according to the SITE monitoring service.
The service quoted Mansour as saying: "O Chinese unbelievers, know that you have been fooling East Turkestan for the last 60 years, but now they have awakened. The people have learned who is the real enemy and they returned to their own religion. They learned the lesson."
Many Uyghurs refer to Xinjiang, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Central Asian republics, as East Turkestan.
Musbay said the spokesman's remarks was an example of how the Chinese authorities "twisted" Uyghur-related incidents, especially those occurring in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.
Xinjiang is home to some 10 million ethnic minority mostly Muslim Uyghurs who say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination and oppressive religious controls under Beijing’s policies, blaming the problems partly on the influx of Han Chinese into the region.
In recent months, dozens of Uyghurs accused of terrorism have been shot dead in lightning raids in Xinjiang.
But rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against Uyghurs, who complain they are subject to strict religious controls and are discriminated against by the Chinese authorities.
A former official from the home village of the driver of the car that plowed into a crowded part of Tiananmen Square last month had said that he may have been angered by a police raid on a mosque.
The driver, Usmen Hesen, had publicly vowed to avenge the police raid on the mosque in his Yengi Aymaq village in Xinjiang’s Akto county, former village chief Hamut Turdi told RFA's Uyghur Service.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.