“Far west attacks expose violence’s homegrown roots”

As expected, Beijing has been blaming the Kashgar violence on ‘outside forces’ who want to ‘destabilize’ China. Now they’ve taken it a step further by singling out Pakistan and claiming that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, is specifically behind the attacks. As is so often the case, a quick application of reality to these claims clears them up right away, as per Reuters:

But few experts see them as capable of striking in Xinjiang. Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani expert, said Chinese officials told him there were only between 30 and 80 Uighur militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

There is even uncertainty about whether the ETIM still operates as an effective organization. After a key leader of the group was killed in 2003, its activities went into decline.

“The ETIM seems to have faded out with a whimper, rather than a bang,” Andrew McGregor, a Toronto-based security analyst wrote in a Jamestown Foundation report last year.

Some experts believe the organization reformed under another name, the Turkestan Islamic Party, which claimed to be behind attacks in China before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

“The ETIM has a very narrow support and sympathizer base, and most of its operatives have been killed or captured by the Chinese,” said Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on terrorism at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Uighurs generally do not support militant Islamic creeds, but more of them have embraced stricter observation of the religion over past years.

That ETIM doesn’t seem to really exist anymore is probably a plus in this case, making it easier for Beijing to pin problems on them without worries of a response from the group itself. By the way, note the characterizations of Uyghur violence as ‘primitive’ and ‘ethnic hate crimes.’ This precise terminology isn’t accidental.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, violence, Xinjiang

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