In China, if the ‘Dalai Lama clique’ and Tibetan Youth League are blamed for triggering trouble in Tibet, the culprit behind the sporadic violence across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is inevitably the shadowy East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
The other groups termed culpable are exiled Uyghur groups operating from abroad, said to be working as the front for ETIM.
But experts and rights group have expressed serious doubts how serious the ETIM threat actually is; some have termed it bordering on fiction, especially about the al Qaeda connections.
It is routine for the state-controlled media and strategic experts to claim that ETIM members, many of them trained in an unnamed South Asian country return to Xinjiang to incite locals against the authorities.
Dozens of Uyghur men have recently been sentenced to death for their involvement with the ETIM and creating unrest in the remote region. Evidence is apparently mostly based on literature found on the suspects and confessions. Recently, a top security analyst in China defined the ETIM role to foreign and Chinese journalists in an interaction. “The direct and immediate (terrorism) threat that China faces is from the ETIM.” Li Wei, director of the Institute for Security and Arms Control Studies, said. That challenge is vastly exaggerated, two experts told HT. “In short, yes, it is a fiction! There is no room for large-scale organisation of any resistance in Xinjiang and in fact between 2001 and 2009 number incidents of unrest in Xinjiang was lower than average for rest of China,” David Tobin from Glasgow University said.