February 25 ,1997 | Bus bombs in China’s Xinjiang Province

On this day in 1997 a series of bombs that exploded in buses in Urumqi, coincided with the day of Deng Xiaoping’s funeral in Beijing. Nine people died.

Just because China’s campaign of ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is unjustifiable does not mean there is no such thing as Uyghur terrorism.

You would have to be living under a rock or inhabiting a parallel universe to not know that the Chinese government is engaged in a ‘scorched earth’ policy in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Its target is known as the Uyghur community, people who are of Central Asian origin and who are predominantly Muslim.

China justifies what it is doing by claiming that it is cracking down on terrorism (and yes it has a point as we shall see) but the scale of its response goes well beyond keeping its citizens safe.

What the government has done is essentially to make Islam synonymous with violent extremism. In this light it has outlawed ANY indication of the faith, public or private and incarcerated more than one MILLION Uyghurs in the euphemistically named ‘retraining schools’. This is a lie: these are concentration camps.

Authorities have not only put innocent civilians behind bars for ‘offences’ such as owning a Quran or wearing clothing that is not ‘sinicised’ enough, but also razed hundreds if not thousands of mosques and prayer rooms. They have also instituted mass surveillance systems that monitor the everyday lives of Uyghurs.

The response by the world has been mixed. Many Western countries have outwardly criticised China for its moves, albeit carefully in order to protect economic ties. The Islamic world, on the other hand, is a joke: not a single ‘Muslim’ leader has taken China to task for its ongoing genocide. So much for Islamic solidarity.

In all this, however, we have to be true to the facts. There have been terrorist attacks perpetrated by Uyghur violent extremists and many Uyghur terrorists fought in Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria. China has indeed suffered from this form of violence (NB I covered this at some length in my third book The Lesser Jihads).

1997 Ürümqi bus bombings

For instance, on this day in 1997 a series of bombs that exploded in buses in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, coincided with the day of Deng Xiaoping’s funeral in Beijing. All in all, nine people died. A similar attack occurred in Beijing less than a month later.

In a statement relayed to a Taiwanese radio station, Xinjiang dissidents based in Turkey said exiled Uyghurs living in Kazakhstan orchestrated the Beijing attack, and were prepared to carry out others. They claimed the attack was in retaliation against China’s “suppression of pro-independence activism” in Xinjiang, and the government’s “refusal to seek compromise through dialogue”.

There have been few, in any attacks in recent years in Xinjiang, probably due to the state’s oppressive presence. This is not, of course, a justification of those measures. China is using the equivalent of an F-18 to kill a mosquito. Disproportionate means often lead to unwanted consequences.

As I am sure the PRC will one day find out.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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