China has applauded Britain’s decision to list as a terrorist organisation a group Beijing accuses of fomenting terrorism in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
The British Parliament has declared the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as “an Islamic terrorist and separatist organsiation” and banned any kind of support to it.
Beijing has repeatedly accused ETIM of inciting terrorism and separatism within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and outside.
“China applauds Britain's updated terror list, which includes ETIM,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement. China welcomes a clearer understanding of the violent and terror nature and the actual harmfulness of ETIM by other countries, including Britain, Lu added.
Lu said ETIM was generally recognised as a terrorist organisation by the world community. Terrorism is “the public enemy of all mankind, and anti-terrorism has no national boundaries”.
China would like to work with all parties, including Britain, to enhance counter-terror cooperation, fight international terrorism, and jointly safeguard global and regional peace as well as the security of people's lives and property,” Lu said.
Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uyghur community, which rights groups say have had their religious and cultural rights severely restricted by the Communist Party of China-run government.
The region has seen sporadic violence between members of the ethnic community and government forces. Independent verification of news from the region is difficult as the government tightly controls the flow of information.
According to reports from London, the British Home Office made the listing this week. “TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party) is an Islamic terrorist and separatist organisation founded in 1989 by Uyghur militants in western China. It aims to establish an independent caliphate in the Uyghur state of XUAR of northwestern China and to name it East Turkestan,” the office said in a notice.
Experts and rights groups, however, have expressed doubts about ETIM’s capabilities and questioned Beijing’s claims that it is responsible for attacks within and outside XUAR, including in Beijing and Kunming.
“However, the presence of Uyghur fighters in Syria has been reported by multiple sources,” the AP reported.
Earlier this week, Washington-based New America Foundation said in a report that leaked “registration documents of ISIS fighters provided by a defector“ included 3,500 foreign recruits, of whom 114 came from Xinjiang.
The reason, it said, was because of “significant economic disparities between the ethnic majority Han Chinese” and the Uyghur population, who were being “subjected to substantial state repression through restrictions on Islamic practices like growing beards or wearing head coverings”.
China dismissed the report.