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Counter-terrorism Bureau Goes Public on 'Eastern Turkistan' Terrorism

It was at a December 15 news conference in Beijing that the Ministry of Public Security issued details of "Eastern Turkistan" terrorism for the first time. Four "East Turkistan" terrorist organizations were identified and 11 alleged members of the organizations were named. Zhao Yongchen, deputy director of the counter-terrorism bureau of the ministry responded to questions from a dozen representatives of the media both domestic and foreign.

Reporter: Why issue the list at this particular point in time?

Zhao Yongchen: Not long after the September 11 attacks, the United Nations (UN) passed Resolution 1373. This anti-terrorism measure calls on all UN states to take measures to identify terrorist organizations and members of these organizations. China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has a responsibility to fulfill anti-terrorist commitments according to the UN resolution.

We have collected criminal intelligence on the "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations. Through a careful and rigorous process of gathering evidence on their criminal activities we completed an initial identification of four terrorist organizations and 11 alleged members of the organizations. We have now taken the step of formally making the list public. This demonstrates the Chinese government's firm determination to act against terrorism.

Reporter: It has been claimed for some time that the "East Turkistan Information Center" merely performs a social function. What evidence is there that it is actually a terrorist organization?

Zhao Yongchen: Careful investigation has shown that the "Eastern Turkistan Information Center" is actually an out-and-out terrorist organization. It is engaged in terrorist activities under cover of its front as an information provider. The organization is devoted to the planning and implementation of terrorist acts of violence both inside and outside Chinese territory.

Firstly this is an organization that has openly propagated extremism. It has published such works as Is Our Independence Hopeful or Not and Independence or Death, articles that clearly promote religious extremism. It has called for a holy war to be conducted by means of violence and terror tactics. It openly urges Muslims in China to engage in terrorist activities aimed at Han nationality kindergartens, schools, government institutions and the Chinese armed forces by means of bomb and poison attacks.

Secondly it has developed terrorist organizations and established terrorist networks via the Internet.

Thirdly it has gathered information on the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and has provided this information to assist terrorists conduct terror activities.

Fourthly it has both planned and been in command of terrorist activities such as bomb attacks on infrastructure facilities like oil and gas pipelines and railways inside Chinese territory.

Finally it has directed its members in the conduct of terrorist activities through the Internet and Internet contacts. And it has actively conspired with other terrorist organizations outside Chinese territory via the Internet.

Reporter: What criteria are used in identifying terrorist organizations and terrorists?

Zhao Yongchen: The criteria used to identify terrorist organizations and terrorists are contained in the relevant legislation of the People's Republic of China together with relevant international law. Specifically, the standards used to identify terrorist organizations are:

Firstly the organizations, which could have their headquarters either inside or outside Chinese territory, would be engaged in terrorist activities involving violence and terror and causing harm to state security, social stability, lives and property.

Secondly they would have established leadership and organizational structures with specialized roles within the structures.

Finally the organizations would satisfy one of the following in addition to meeting the first two criteria.

1. currently or previously involved in the organization, planning, instigation, conduct or implementation of terrorist activities 
2. financing and supporting terrorist activities
3. building bases used for terrorist activities or organizing, recruiting and training terrorists
4. collaborating with international terrorist organizations by receiving finance or training from these organizations or engaging in terrorist activities with them

Terrorists are defined as follows:

Firstly they are people who have significant relationships with terrorist organizations engaged in terrorist activities harmful to state security or the lives and property of people inside or outside Chinese territory. This would apply irrespective of whether or not they have become naturalized citizens of foreign countries;

Secondly in addition to the first criteria they would also meet one of the following conditions:

1. organizing, commanding or engaged in terrorist activities
2.  organizing, planning, propagating or instigating the implementation of terrorist activities
3. financing and supporting terrorist organizations or terrorists to assist them in the conduct of terrorist activities
4. funded or trained by a terrorist organization or other international organization to engage in terrorist activities

Reporter: How many known terrorists are there inside Chinese territory? And why don't you issue lists of terrorist organizations including those operating outside Chinese territory, other than those relating to "Eastern Turkistan"?

Zhao Yongchen: The list of terrorist organizations and terrorists issued at this time has involved careful identification based on sound criminal intelligence work and known evidence of terrorist activities. Before we would identify such organizations and terrorists we must be in possession of the facts and have verified evidence.

As for the second question, the UN has established a sound mechanism for issuing lists of terrorist organizations and terrorists. It is the position of the Chinese government that the fight against terrorism should be led by the UN and conducted in conformity with international law and principles.

The Chinese government will comply with UN resolutions and international law when identifying terrorist organizations and when taking counter measures against them. 

Reporter: You mentioned that it is hoped that foreign governments will support the Chinese government in combating terrorism. Currently how many foreign governments are supporting the Chinese government's anti-terrorism cause? And in which fields would the Chinese government hope to cooperate with foreign governments?

Zhao Yongchen: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has consistently stood for strengthening international cooperation on anti-terrorism.

Firstly we wish to cooperate on anti-terrorist activities within the UN framework. Secondly to engage in international anti-terrorist cooperation via regional cooperative organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And thirdly to combat terrorism through bilateral police and judicial cooperation.

According to the relevant UN resolutions we can cooperate with other countries in combating terrorism by exchanging information, arresting suspected terrorists, freezing their assets and repatriating suspected terrorist criminals. Since the September 11 attacks, the Chinese government has conducted highly effective anti-terrorist cooperation with the international community in the above mentioned fields. In the future, we will continue to strengthen cooperation in these fields.

Reporter: While fighting terrorism according to the law how can it be guaranteed that the interest of local people especially Uygurs will not be violated.

Zhao Yongchen: The publication of the list of "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations and terrorists is intended to protect state security and effectively crack down on terrorist activities. The "Eastern Turkistan" terrorists are not representative of any nationality. Their terrorist activities have severely violated the property rights, the right to economic development, the right to health, the right to life and even the very right to existence of the broad mass of the people including Uygurs.

The crack down on their violence and terrorist activities according to the law is aimed at effectively protecting the life and property of all ethnic groups in the region including the Uygurs. It is intended to serve the public interest, to maintain the stability of Xinjiang and the surrounding regions, to maintain the unity of the state and to promote social stability and the smooth development of a modern socialist society.  

Those targeted in the crackdown are only a handful of the most serious offenders. They are the key people, extremely violent criminals engaged in planning, commanding, leading and organizing terrorist activities and acts of violence. Therefore, in the process of cracking down on the "Eastern Turkistan" terrorists, we are protecting the human rights and interests of all citizens including Uygurs.

Reporter: For Chinese citizens, terrorist activities seem far removed from their daily lives. Would you please give an overview of the emergence and development of terrorism in China?

Zhao Yongchen: Terrorism can be said to have been with us from ancient times. Since the 1960s the world has been plagued by terrorist activities, which have gone through several phases of development. Terrorism has changed since the end of the cold war. Today the international community would categorize terrorism into extreme religious terrorism, separatist terrorism, ultra-left terrorism, ultra-right terrorism and the terrorism of evil cults and the criminal underworld. Currently terrorism linked to religious extremism and separatism does the greatest damage to international society.

Terrorist activities include bombing, assassination, murder, hostage taking, hijacking airplanes, hijacking vehicles and attacks on property. In the future, terrorism can be expected to move on to biological terrorism, chemical terrorism and even nuclear radiation terrorism and there will be Internet terrorism.

We need to face up to the threat of terrorism. Ordinary people should become more aware of how to be on their guard against such attacks and how best to react to try to stay safe in the event of an emergency.

Reporter: As for the list identifying the first batch of "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations and alleged members of the organizations, which countries does the Chinese government particularly hope to engage with it and what is the message it would like to get across? And when can we expect second and third lists to be made public?

Zhao Yongchen: We need to strengthen anti-terrorist cooperation with related countries. This would especially be the case with neighboring countries and countries where terrorist activities are comparatively prevalent and would include for example member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

On the second question, the investigation, identification and verification of terrorist organizations and terrorists represent a lengthy process. We will decide whether and when to issue a second list only after careful investigation and according to established facts and the rule of law.

Reporter: What kind of relationships are there between the four terrorist organizations that have been identified and terrorist organizations outside Chinese territory?

Zhao Yongchen: Among the four "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations listed this time, some have their command structures outside Chinese territory. Some such as the "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement" and the "Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization" conduct terrorist activities inside Chinese territory.

These two organizations are mainly engaged in terrorist activities outside Chinese territory, but they continuously attempt to infiltrate China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to conduct terrorist activities. They have an integrated their activities. For example, a vice president of the "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement" is also the vice president of the "Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization". They collude and collaborate with each other to engage in a series of terrorist activities harmful to state security in neighboring countries and to the life and property of their peoples.

The severe crack down of these terrorist organizations will help to maintain state and regional security and promote the smooth development of a modern socialist society.

(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, December 23, 2003)

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