By Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi
China’s first documentary on its overall counter-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang aired on December 5, Thursday night, prompted wide discussions among the audience with never-seen-before real crime scenes of terrorism, which highlighted the hefty prices China has paid and the country’s resolution in eradicating terrorism.
A lot of the video and audio clips in the English-language documentary were disclosed for the first time as concrete evidence of the horrible crimes wreaked by terrorists in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It also revealed hard evidence of interactions between terrorists and overseas masterminds.
“The authorities did not publish the video and details of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang before out of concern they may cause panic. This proves China had paid a high price in fighting terrorism, and the international community should have a clear understanding,” Li Wei, a counter-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times.
Li noted that the video and audio footages justify China’s Xinjiang policies in countering terrorism, including launching the vocational education and training centers, which have been highly effective in de-radicalizing and fighting extremist forces.
Complicity of terrorists and overseas forces
China has spared no efforts in its fight against terrorists, who are often well-trained and take part in armed confrontations with counter-terrorism forces. Terrorist groups, including the “East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” were found to help train terrorists in Xinjiang, experts and sources told the Global Times.
Xinjiang has long been the main battlefield against terrorism. According to incomplete data, from 1990 to 2016, Xinjiang endured thousands of terrorist attacks that killed large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers.
“Some Western countries spread the idea that the 2009 Urumqi riots were ethnic clashes triggered by repression. Chinese experts say that’s illogical, given the 9/11 attacks. The anti-China interpretation shows the double-standard approach adopted by some,” the Thursday documentary said.
Chinese authorities believe the “East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” or ETIM, a shadowy Xinjiang-based group with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, organized the Tiananmen Square terrorist attack in 2013. And Chinese police said they have clear evidence that the incident was linked to separatist forces outside Xinjiang.
Recent reports have revealed that there are hundreds of Chinese fighters in Syria, and some “jihadists” have brought their war home to Xinjiang.
Group Captain Sultan Hali from Pakistan Air Force said a number of Muslims from China’s Xinjiang were trained as “jihadists” in training centers in Syria.
“When the Soviet-Afghan war ended in 1989, some of them went back. But most of them were not de-indoctrinated, and were used as tools,” he said.
Li told the Global Times that members of the ETIM terrorist group used to have secret trainings in mountainous and remote areas in Xinjiang.
By colluding with overseas terrorists in the Middle East and studying their attack skills, these terrorists develop their own skills in making weapons and plotting attacks, and even battled counter-terrorism forces, Li said.
A source who joined a counter-terrorism operation in Xinjiang told the Global Times that these well-trained terrorists, who were familiar with the local environment, usually hid in caves in mountainous areas. They were good at anti-reconnaissance operations and fiercely resisted special forces.
In 2007, three members of the ETIM re-entered Xinjiang and trained more than 80 terrorists in the Pamir areas, Li said, noting that China has made great efforts in fighting these extremely dangerous terrorists.
Police officers in Xinjiang work on the frontline of the fight against terrorism. According to data from China Central Television, from 2013 to 2016, a total of 127 police officers in Xinjiang sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
Window of truth
Experts believe terrorism is a global threat, and no country can win the war against terrorism on its own. In the face of the threat of terrorism and extremism, Xinjiang has taken a series of measures, including establishing laws and regulations, and launching effective counter-terrorism operations.
According to media reports found by the Global Times, the Xinjiang region launched a special counter-terrorism campaign in May 2014.
Authorities have cracked down on 1,588 terrorist groups, and 12,995 terrorists and 2,052 explosive materials had been seized in Xinjiang since 2014, read a white paper on regional work on counter-terrorism, de-extremism and human rights protection released in March.
China has also enhanced international cooperation to crack down on terrorist forces in Xinjiang. China has joined 12 global counter-terrorism conventions and played an active role in international multilateral mechanisms, including the international criminal police organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, Liu Yuejin, China’s top counter-terrorism official, said at a press conference on Wednesday, December 4.
No violent terrorist attacks have happened in Xinjiang in three years. Publishing these videos would let more people and some Western media know more about China’s current counter-terrorism policies in Xinjiang, Zheng said.
“It seems impossible to correct the wrong opinions of the West toward China’s Xinjiang counter-terrorism policies. But the documentary would open a window for those who want to know the truth,” Zheng said.