China Breaks Up “181 Terrorist Groups” in Xinjiang

China Breaks Up “181 Terrorist Groups” in Xinjiang

Angela Meng at South China Morning Post reports that authorities in Xinjiang have disbanded 181 groups suspected of engaging in terrorist activities.

The authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang say they have broken up 181 terrorist groups since they launched a security crackdown a year ago.

[…] The Communist Party committee in the region said 96.2 per cent of the gangs were discovered while they were planning attacks, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Some 112 suspects had turned themselves in to the police, according to the report. [Source]

The crackdown is a part of the Xi administration’s ongoing anti-terror campaign that was launched following a series of terrorist attacks throughout the country that had been associated with Islamic separatists from Xinjiang, Agence France Presse reports:

Authorities launched the campaign after 39 people were killed last May in a bloody market attack which was blamed on separatists in Urumqi, the capital of the vast, north-western region of Xinjiang.

Scores of people have been sentenced to death as part of the drive, while hundreds have been jailed or detained on terror-related offences.

[…] Clashes between authorities and alleged Islamist separatists – as well as attacks killing civilians – have spread in recent years, both in Xinjiang, which is home to just over 10 million of the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, and outside it.

More than 200 people died last year in violence either in or traced back to Xinjiang, according to media reports. [Source]

Besides cracking down on alleged terrorist activities, authorities have enacted a range of religious and cultural restrictions while promoting visions of Xinjiang as an inherent part of China. At China Real Time, Ned Levin spoke with historian Rian Thum about his new book, “The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History”, which explores the traditional pilgrimage-based dissemination of history in the desert region of Altishahr.

While breaking down this tradition, Chinese authorities have in other ways appropriated it. Could you describe this process?

In most cases, for the major shrines in these cities, they’ve chosen to project their own story onto these sites. One of the exciting things about performing history at the place where the events happened is it lends an incredible authority to the story that you’re telling: the pilgrim can see that the place really exists, and can touch the sand on which the hero died. There’s a certain amount of authority that accrues to the people who are the caretakers of those places.

The Chinese state has actually taken over the role of the shaykh of the shrine—the shaykh is the name for the religious figure who is the caretaker of the shrine. Many smaller shrines are still run by Uighur shaykhs, who often hold their positions informally. But the position has been eliminated at major urban shrines, where the state has taken over this role and with it adopted the authority of the shaykh. And what they do with it is to project stories of ethnic unity, “minzu tuanjie,” a favorite element of PRC propaganda and a favorite goal of PRC development in the region. [Source]

Thum points to the co-option of the legendary “Fragrant Concubine” as an example. A series of cartoons launched last year recast her from a symbol of Uyghur resistance into an exemplar of ethnic harmony.

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