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Islamic State ups the terror ante in Xinjiang

HONG KONG (UCAN): In response to a video released by the Islamic State vowing to spill blood in China, Beijing has pledged to fight terrorist forces alongside the international community.

The 30-minute video shows a guerilla-like figure, suspected of being a Uyghur from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China, claiming that he would go back to China and commit a terrorist attack. The video also features images of Xinjiang and Chinese police patrolling the streets.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, Geng Shuang, said at a regular press conference on March 1 that he was not aware of the video, but stated, “China opposes terrorism in all its manifestations and is actively engaged in international cooperation to fight terrorism.”

Geng added, “East Turkestan terrorist forces, represented by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, pose a grave threat to the security and stability of China and the region. We will work with the international community in jointly fighting (the) forces.”

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is listed as a terrorist organisation by China, Russia, the European Union, the United States of America and other countries. It has a complex relationship with the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the area, and operates in Xinjiang where the majority of the population is Uyghur and Muslim.

“Beijing in fact is highly concerned over the video. Several social media chat groups have banned all discussion on religious issues,” Shih Chien-yu, a professor of journalism from Chu Hai College of Higher Education in Hong Kong, commented.

The video appeared prior to the annual National People’s Congress on March 5 and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top political advisory body, on March 3.

It also came soon after Chinese security forces conducted at least three mass rallies in Xinjiang and released plans to track vehicles in the region.

Thousands of security personnel were also deployed in the area to fight radicalisation and terrorism.

Imad Moustapha, the ambassador from Syria to China, told the media that there are estimated to be more than 5,000 Chinese fighting in Syria.

He said that the Islamic State has suffered a setback in the Middle East recently and some observers have anticipated that the Uyghur people connected with the group and fighting in the area may return to China and pose a threat to Xinjiang or the whole country.

The Uyghur people have resented Chinese rule ever since the Communist Party annexed their country in 1949 and flooded the region with Han Chinese immigrants.

In Xinjiang, they used to practice a moderate form of Islam but, as China opened up, a more fundamentalist brand has emerged along with an increased determination to liberate themselves from Chinese rule.

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