These terrorists, in fact, do not represent any ethnic group or religion. That's why China's fight against terrorism is neither an ethnic nor a religious problem. It is, instead, a long-term effort to safeguard national unity and defeat separatism.
The separatists and terrorists, despite comprising a small number of Uygurs, pose a serious challenge to the lives and property of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. They also have a far-reaching impact on the region's social stability and economic development. Because of the frequent terrorist attacks, the number of domestic and foreign tourists to Xinjiang has reduced by more than one-third. This is a serious problem because it affects the livelihood of local vendors who depend on tourism.
The "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" is part of an international terrorist network . For long, the ETIM has been funded by al-Qaida, and its members are active in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and some have even joined the Syrian conflict to further their cause of "jihad". The ETIM has close links with other violent groups in West Asia, too, and has sought their help to acquire weapons and explosives.
Influenced by the ETIM's extreme ideology, some local terrorist outfits have emerged in Xinjiang in recent years. The development is no different from what has happened in some Western countries. The violent attacks in Xinjiang, launched both by the ETIM and local groups, are nothing but acts of terrorism, because the Boston bombing suspects, too, didn't have direct relations with any specific terrorist outfit but their action was nothing but an act of terrorism.
Some Western countries have been using double standards to define terrorism. Since the ETIM is active mainly in Xinjiang, some Western media tend to portray its violent actions as the result of ethnic and religious conflicts. In doing so, they ignore its anti-human, anti-civilization nature. But once violent attacks threaten their own social and national security, Western countries change their attitude and label them terrorist attacks. The UN designated the ETIM as a terrorist organization in 2002, partly because the US felt it posed a threat to the US' security.
But when it comes to the Xinjiang and Tibet issues, which concern China's core interests, some people in the West see things differently. They prefer to turn a blind eye to the China's efforts to protect all its ethnic groups. And after every terrorist attack in Xinjiang, some Western countries start beating about the bush and even try to fan the flames of violence, because they want to see China plunge into chaos.
The US, too, has been using double standards on terrorism. Terrorism is the common enemy of all countries. And the US is aware of the danger posed by terrorism both at home and abroad. So by turning a blind eye to terrorist attacks in other countries or by labeling them religious or ethnic conflicts, the US will only end up encouraging the terrorist outfits and eventually shooting itself in the foot.
The author is the director of the Center for Counter-terrorism Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.