On Friday, the United States said it had excluded a mysterious faction frequently accused by China’s from its list of terror groups to justify its brutal crackdown in the Xinjiang region of the Muslim majority.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he removed the classification of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a ‘criminal group’ in a note in the Federal Register, China’s which publishes new US laws and regulations.
“ETIM was excluded from the list because there has been no reliable evidence for more than a decade that ETIM appears to exist,” a spokeswoman for the State Department said.
In 2004, George W. Bush ‘s administration added ETIM, also often referred to as the Turkestan Islamic Party, to a blacklist as it made common ground with China in the “war on terror” led by the US. In Xinjiang, where rights activists claim that one million or more Uighurs or other Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim people are detained in camps, Beijing has frequently blamed ETIM for attacks as it defends its controls.
But scholars claim that little evidence has been provided by China that ETIM is an armed organisation or that it is to blame for the Xinjiang attacks, which separatists call East Turkestan.
The Uighur Human Rights Project, based in Washington, called the decision of the State Department “long overdue” and a “definitive denial of the claims of China.”
“Omer Kanat, the group’s executive director, said, “The devastating consequences of China’s manipulation of the perceived ‘ETIM’ threat are real-20 years of state terror aimed at Uighurs.
“But on Friday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman voiced China’s” strong disappointment and solid opposition to the US decision, “urging the US to” avoid backpedalling on international cooperation on counter-terrorism.
In Xinjiang, China has recognised camps but identifies them as vocational centres designed to mitigate the allure of Islamic radicalism.
Although experts have questioned ETIM ‘s position, China has suffered a series of attacks blamed on Uighur separatists by the authorities.
In 2014, 31 passengers at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming were stabbed to death by attackers.
In 2009, hundreds died in protests in Xinjiang ‘s capital, Urumqi, which primarily targeted the Han majority of China.
Activists allege that by indoctrinating them with communist ideologies and making them renounce Islamic customs, China is seeking to forcefully absorb Uighurs, a charge Beijing rejects.
Pompeo has previously called “the blight of the century” mass imprisonment, and US senators are continuing to announce China’s prosecution of the Uighur genocide across party lines.
ETIM has been classified on the US Terrorism Exclusion List, which impacts people’s entry into the country, but has never been affected by the International Terrorist Organization’s tougher label.
Published in Dharti News, November 7th, 2020