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Chinese double standards on terrorism

China’s counter-terrorism efforts presently focus mainly on its Muslim ethnic Uighur population in Xinjiang region. China’s official use of the term ‘terrorist’ seems reserved almost exclusively for describing those tied to Xinjiang.

China comes under attack for HR violations in Xinjiang

On 01 Nov 2018 meeting of UNHRC China came under intensive attack from western countries including its biggest trade partner; the USA, for human rights violation in its north-western Xinjiang province. Xinjiang province is dominated by Muslim minority Uyghurs (Uighurs) community that is estimated to be close to 10 million. Out of 10 million, one million are said to be under detention for “re-education and skill development”, as termed by the Chinese government.

Here these detainees are “de-extremized” by removing all the symbols of religion like a skull cap, headgears, beard, traditional ethnic dresses etc. Here they are not allowed to keep Roza (monthly fasting in the month of Ramzan), read Quran or Arabic/Turkish language; instead, they are ‘taught’ mandarin, communist values and other soft and hard skills for “growth and development”. In the eyes of the world, China has two standards for dealing with terrorism and Islamic extremism: ruthless within its territory and “pragmatic” outside its boundaries. Pursuant to its double standards it comes down heavily of Uighurs but protects Masood Azhar sitting in Pakistan from being declared as a terrorist.

China is battling extremism and terrorism in the hands of Uyghur Muslims in its north-western autonomous region of Xinjiang, the largest of China’s administrative regions. Xinjiang borders eight countries – Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (Pak Occupied Jammu and Kashmir). China does not come as heavily on other Muslim groups/ethnicity as on Uyghurs, primarily because they are separatists. The Uyghurs are not allowed to keep Roza, grow beards and read Quran.

China is so scared of their “radicalized” demands that it has ordered Uyghurs to deposit all copies of the Quran with the communist party government agents. Most of Uighurs are Sunni Muslims and Islam is the most important part of their life and identity. They originally are of Turkish descent and speak a mixed form of Turkish language that China wants to alter by replacing with Chinese mandarin. From 1949 onwards China has been settling Han Chinese in the region that has created tension, strife and ethnic conflict between Uighurs and Han Chinese. Despite the vice-like grip over media, the stories of atrocities on Uighurs are very common.

Chinese double standards on terrorism

China’s double standards are exposed by its contrary treatment of two terrorist groups. On one hand, it does not allow any dissent on its soil and snatches away the very basic right of its citizens; to the extent that it bars them from keeping Roza, reading Quran, learning Arabic and Turkish languages, and even keeping beards. On the other, it uses its veto to shelter a world denounced terrorists like Masood Azhar and a whole lot of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, who have sponsored several mass murders and are a fountainhead of terrorism.

Why China is adopting such a dangerous path on the matter of terrorism, when China itself is suffering the same terror in Tarim Basin, is not difficult to understand. It is not Masood Azhar or his terror network per se that China is trying to protect, but her security/national interest and oppose India’s efforts to bring the head of a terror factory to the book. It is not that China is protecting Pakistan, but its interests in Pakistan like; the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Any action on terror network in Pakistan will invite retaliation from well trenched terrorist networks like Haqqani network, JeM, LeT, Taliban etc.

It will not allow the Chinese to carry on the developmental activities peacefully. A few months back, two Chinese teachers, who were there to teach Mandarin to the children of workers/officers working on various projects in Pakistan, were abducted and killed by the terrorists. So it is an effort by China to buy peace from the terrorists and allow them to carry on their activities unhindered. Further, it needs access to the Indian Ocean and none other than Pakistan can provide that. It uses Pakistan as a counterbalance against India. But in the process, China has missed one very important point that history has taught us: “don’t shelter and nurture snakes in your backyard, one day they will bite your own children”. China needs to clean not only her house but backyard too.


China seeks regional and global support for targeting Uighur Islamists but refrains from backing India’s efforts to weaken the terror groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who are considered as Pakistani army’s ‘strategic assets’ to wage asymmetric war against India. This selective characterization poses several challenges for the success of counter-terrorism efforts in South Asia. The China-Pakistan nexus extends to shielding Pakistani terrorism at the UN as India’s attempts to get the global body to act against Pakistan-based terrorist leaders have been frustrated by Chinese intransigence.

12 Nov 18/Monday                                                            Written by Afsana 

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