China factor in the fight against ISIS
We've noted that Iran is a de facto member of the Great Power convergence against ISIS, but the Islamic Republic wasn't invited to today's summit in Paris, where leaders of some 30 nations pledged to support Iraq in its fight against the so-called "Islamic State" by "any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance, in line with the needs expressed by the Iraqi authorities, in accordance with international law and without jeopardizing civilian security." However, the two principal US imperial rivals were there: Russia and China. Of course we can take the reference to "civilian security" with a grain of salt, and the final statement made no mention of Syria—the stickiest question in the ISIS dilemma. (AFP via Lebanon Daily Star, Sept. 16) China's interest in the issue was crystalized over the weekend by the arrest in Indonesia of two ethnic Uighurs on suspicion of ties to ISIS. The two were detained in Central Sulawesi province, said to be a "major hotbed of militancy," in a sweep of suspected ISIS recruits. They had allegedly procured false passports in Thailand, and were in possession of literature and other paraphernalia with ISIS insignia. (SCMP, Sept. 15)
Earlier this month, Iraq's Defense Ministry posted on its Facebook page photographs purported to show a captured Chinese man who was fighting amid the ISIS ranks. Arabic text accompanying the photographs identifies the man as "Chinese Da'ash," using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Both ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a Chinese diplomat said this summer that Chinese fighters have joined ISIS. (NYT, Sept. 5)
China continues to pursue its crackdown on Islamic militants (real or perceived) in the Uighur region of Xinjiang. Chinese authorities on Sept. 14 announced that 190 children had been "rescued" and dozens arrested in a raid on a madrassa in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. Last month the government said it had "rescued" 82 children in a similar raid in Urumqi. Hundreds have been killed in violence in Xinjiang in the past 18 months, prompting a sweeping crackdown targeting the "Three Illegals"—illegal publicity materials, illegal religious activities and illegal religious instruction. (Reuters, Sept. 14)
On Sept. 12, the Intermediate Court of Kunming found four defendants guilty of carrying out a deadly knife attack that claimed the lives of 31 civilians in March. Three of the defendants, all men, received the death penalty, while the lone female suspect was sentenced to life in prison. The one-day trail lasted only a few hours. Video shows the three men—all with Uighur or Muslim names—seated in court with shaved heads, wearing blue prison uniforms. They were all found guilty of "premeditated murder and leading and organizing a terrorist group." The fourth defendant, also a Uighur, was found guilty of "intentional homicide and joining a terrorist group." None of the men on trial participated directly in the train station attack. Court documents made public following the trial say the three men were captured by police two days before the attacks occurred. This directly contradicts previous official accounts claiming the suspects were apprehended March 4 following a 36-hour manhunt after the Kunming attacks. It is unclear when or where the men were captured, as no details of their arrests have been made public. The fourth defendant was actually arrested at the scene of the attack. The trial in Kunming was uncharacteristically open to the public, attended by some 300, including victims and their families.
China has dramatically escalated "anti-terror" efforts nationwide since the Kunming attacks. Police officers are now permitted to carry sidearms for the first time in decades in Kunming and several other cities where police patrols have traditionally been unarmed. Hundreds of people have been detained for terrorism-related crimes in Xinjiang. (GoKunming, Sept. 15)
As we have stated, there is obviously a vicious cycle of repression and terrorism fueling each other underway in China. If the People's Republic aggressively enters the international effort against ISIS, it could have the effect of giving the "Islamic State" cachet among the oppressed and marginalized Uighurs, further fueling the pathological cycle.